Another Act of Faith in the Connections

In which Margery Kempe meets Walt Whitman

I. "the undertone, the savage old mother incessantly crying"

Pain was predictable as after-party cleanup:
Plague deposited its crumpled napkins;
deprivation chainsmoked, leaving sour butts to be disposed;
war emptied plates, drained glasses;
brigands left those beercans on the patio.
Now we'd say quick lives of children weren't the least of it
- the tiny cornchip crumbs
dips tipped to carpet, lipstick stains -
but these days pity is a houseplant, not a star
and buryings are less routine than baths.

Because medievals didn't overbook, nor did she change her mind
or miss the boat, it took her pilgrimming one look past laughter:
turned from stable Mistress Kempe to turn-on-the-spigot Margery.
After sight of what she called The Place of Our Lord's Pain
all victims christified. She cried and, roaring
fell before the wounded dog or beaten child, as Jesus.
Any dismal could provoke unfitting fitfulness.
She was construed as drunk or demoned, banned and cursed
and how much worse it would've been for her if she'd proclaimed:
I'm crying for that child, that dog, that horse.
That holy passionate: that miraculous inflatable heart
- stuck through, refilling;
unwilling: She hated hysterics;
tried her brittle best to keep the lid on.

II. "the outsetting bard"

Even a vacation more or less may matter still:
Our very proteins are protean;
we know avalanche; rocks and mud
slide; ambush wins history.
Sometimes a bird calls and the sea answers
while a boy marvels on the shoreline
of the holy land of Paumanok.
"Strange tears" were salt
of the earth-
sufficient Walt.

III. "they are alive and well somewhere"

Such a pair, so afflicted with sight:
they are two of my icons;
their eyes - never dry - follow me everywhere.
Often, Walt winks.

He shares your tears, Marge, and he would have you
share his comfort. In fluid time you are his darling.
He is dancing you
with your terrible head in his careful hands;
he understands; he tells you, Cry, Margie, cry!
We are supposed to cry!
It is so wonderful you're crying, sweetheart!
Don't close the cabinet;
don't seal the letter;
don't ever roll a stone over the well -

but know the spectacle of single woes
has moment at ground level:
A hole's quite bad enough
without your making it a hole in Jesus.
Only flesh can hurt and sing,so see the beast, the child -
not through them.
Love what's breathing!
All the pain is with, within us
here -
where all the light is.

He stops your mouth with his; inhales your cries
- extrusions chemical enough to bend to music -
then slowly he fashions symphony
and sunrise.

Come morning, he tickles your feet
with lilacs;
gives you the lilacs
and introduces you around.

IV. "what gods can exceed those that clasp me by the hand?"

Our own are now the necessary faces, Margie.
Metaphysicals, unintermediate
are as dependent as the hopeless guest who would be helpful
- drying the china without a notion where it goes.

Since from Walt's open throat
there sprang the openest road
we've made few poems that not best read
in bed, to two men in Chicago.
Main things are asked of us known by god's nicknames
and at times main things are given:
We have heard
- beyond the lapping death/death/death -
a yawp of self/life/heart:
one gladhand clapping.

1984, 2011 Katherine Anne Harris. All Rights Reserved.

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