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Best Famous Walt Whitman Poems

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Written by Charles Simic | Create an image from this poem

White

 A New Version: 1980

 What is that little black thing I see there
 in the white?
 Walt Whitman


One

Out of poverty
To begin again: 

With the color of the bride
And that of blindness,

Touch what I can
Of the quick,

Speak and then wait,
As if this light

Will continue to linger
On the threshold.
All that is near, I no longer give it a name.
Once a stone hard of hearing, Once sharpened into a knife.
.
.
Now only a chill Slipping through.
Enough glow to kneel by and ask To be tied to its tail When it goes marrying Its cousins, the stars.
Is it a cloud? If it's a cloud it will move on.
The true shape of this thought, Migrant, waning.
Something seeks someone, It bears him a gift Of himself, a bit Of snow to taste, Glimpse of his own nakedness By which to imagine the face.
On a late afternoon of snow In a dim badly-aired grocery, Where a door has just rung With a short, shrill echo, A little boy hands the old, Hard-faced woman Bending low over the counter, A shiny nickel for a cupcake.
Now only that shine, now Only that lull abides.
That your gaze Be merciful, Sister, bride Of my first hopeless insomnia.
Kind nurse, show me The place of salves.
Teach me the song That makes a man rise His glass at dusk Until a star dances in it.
Who are you? Are you anybody A moonrock would recognize? There are words I need.
They are not near men.
I went searching.
Is this a deathmarch? You bend me, bend me, Oh toward what flower! Little-known vowel, Noose big for us all.
As strange as a shepherd In the Arctic Circle.
Someone like Bo-peep.
All his sheep are white And he can't get any sleep Over lost sheep.
And he's got a flute Which says Bo-peep, Which says Poor boy, Take care of your snow-sheep.
to A.
S.
Hamilton Then all's well and white, And no more than white.
Illinois snowbound.
Indiana with one bare tree.
Michigan a storm-cloud.
Wisconsin empty of men.
There's a trap on the ice Laid there centuries ago.
The bait is still fresh.
The metal glitters as the night descends.
Woe, woe, it sings from the bough.
Our Lady, etc.
.
.
You had me hoodwinked.
I see your brand new claws.
Praying, what do I betray By desiring your purity? There are old men and women, All bandaged up, waiting At the spiked, wrought-iron gate Of the Great Eye and Ear Infirmery.
We haven't gone far.
.
.
Fear lives there too.
Five ears of my fingertips Against the white page.
What do you hear? We hear holy nothing Blindfolding itself.
It touched you once, twice, And tore like a stitch Out of a new wound.
Two What are you up to son of a gun? I roast on my heart's dark side.
What do you use as a skewer sweetheart? I use my own crooked backbone.
What do you salt yourself with loverboy? I grind the words out of my spittle.
And how will you know when you're done chump? When the half-moons on my fingernails set.
With what knife will you carve yourself smartass? The one I hide in my tongue's black boot.
Well, you can't call me a wrestler If my own dead weight has me pinned down.
Well, you can't call me a cook If the pot's got me under its cover.
Well, you can't call me a king if the flies hang their hats in my mouth.
Well, you can't call me smart, When the rain's falling my cup's in the cupboard.
Nor can you call me a saint, If I didn't err, there wouldn't be these smudges.
One has to manage as best as one can.
The poppies ate the sunset for supper.
One has to manage as best as one can.
Who stole my blue thread, the one I tied around my pinky to remember? One has to manage as best as one can.
The flea I was standing on, jumped.
One has to manage as best as one can.
I think my head went out for a walk.
One has to manage as best as one can.
This is breath, only breath, Think it over midnight! A fly weighs twice as much.
The struck match nods as it passes, But when I shout, Its true name sticks in my throat.
It has to be cold So the breath turns white, And then mother, who's fast enough To write his life on it? A song in prison And for prisoners, Made of what the condemned Have hidden from the jailers.
White--let me step aside So that the future may see you, For when this sheet is blown away, What else is left But to set the food on the table, To cut oneself a slice of bread? In an unknown year Of an algebraic century, An obscure widow Wrapped in the colors of widowhood, Met a true-blue orphan On an indeterminate street-corner.
She offered him A tiny sugar cube In the hand so wizened All the lines said: fate.
Do you take this line Stretching to infinity? I take this chipped tooth On which to cut it in half.
Do you take this circle Bounded by a single curved line? I take this breath That it cannot capture.
Then you may kiss the spot Where her bridal train last rustled.
Winter can come now, The earth narrow to a ditch-- And the sky with its castles and stone lions Above the empty plains.
The snow can fall.
.
.
What other perennials would you plant, My prodigals, my explorers Tossing and turning in the dark For those remote, finely honed bees, The December stars? Had to get through me elsewhere.
Woe to bone That stood in their way.
Woe to each morsel of flesh.
White ants In a white anthill.
The rustle of their many feet Scurrying--tiptoing too.
Gravedigger ants.
Village-idiot ants.
This is the last summoning.
Solitude--as in the beginning.
A zero burped by a bigger zero-- It's an awful licking I got.
And fear--that dead letter office.
And doubt--that Chinese shadow play.
Does anyone still say a prayer Before going to bed? White sleeplessness.
No one knows its weight.
What The White Had To Say For how could anything white be distinct from or divided from whiteness? Meister Eckhart Because I am the bullet That has gone through everyone already, I thought of you long before you thought of me.
Each one of you still keeps a blood-stained handkerchief In which to swaddle me, but it stays empty And even the wind won't remain in it long.
Cleverly you've invented name after name for me, Mixed the riddles, garbled the proverbs, Shook you loaded dice in a tin cup, But I do not answer back even to your curses, For I am nearer to you than your breath.
One sun shines on us both through a crack in the roof.
A spoon brings me through the window at dawn.
A plate shows me off to the four walls While with my tail I swing at the flies.
But there's no tail and the flies are your thoughts.
Steadily, patiently I life your arms.
I arrange them in the posture of someone drowning, And yet the sea in which you are sinking, And even this night above it, is myself.
Because I am the bullet That has baptized each one of your senses, Poems are made of our lusty wedding nights.
.
.
The joy of words as they are written.
The ear that got up at four in the morning To hear the grass grow inside a word.
Still, the most beautiful riddle has no answer.
I am the emptiness that tucks you in like a mockingbird's nest, The fingernail that scratched on your sleep's blackboard.
Take a letter: From cloud to onion.
Say: There was never any real choice.
One gaunt shadowy mother wiped our asses, The same old orphanage taught us loneliness.
Street-organ full of blue notes, I am the monkey dancing to your grinding-- And still you are afraid-and so, It's as if we had not budged from the beginning.
Time slopes.
We are falling head over heels At the speed of night.
That milk tooth You left under the pillow, it's grinning.
1970-1980 This currently out-of-print edition: Copyright ©1980 Logbridge-Rhodes, Inc.
An earlier version of White was first published by New Rivers Press in 1972.


Written by Allen Ginsberg | Create an image from this poem

A Supermarket in California

What thoughts I have of you tonight, Walt Whit- 
man, for I walked down the sidestreets under the trees 
with a headache self-conscious looking at the full moon.
In my hungry fatigue, and shopping for images, I went into the neon fruit supermarket, dreaming of your enumerations! What peaches and what penumbras! Whole fam- ilies shopping at night! Aisles full of husbands! Wives in the avocados, babies in the tomatoes!--and you, Garcia Lorca, what were you doing down by the watermelons? I saw you, Walt Whitman, childless, lonely old grubber, poking among the meats in the refrigerator and eyeing the grocery boys.
I heard you asking questions of each: Who killed the pork chops? What price bananas? Are you my Angel? I wandered in and out of the brilliant stacks of cans following you, and followed in my imagination by the store detective.
We strode down the open corridors together in our solitary fancy tasting artichokes, possessing every frozen delicacy, and never passing the cashier.
Where are we going, Walt Whitman? The doors close in an hour.
Which way does your beard point tonight? (I touch your book and dream of our odyssey in the supermarket and feel absurd.
) Will we walk all night through solitary streets? The trees add shade to shade, lights out in the houses, we'll both be lonely.
Will we stroll dreaming ofthe lost America of love past blue automobiles in driveways, home to our silent cottage? Ah, dear father, graybeard, lonely old courage- teacher, what America did you have when Charon quit poling his ferry and you got out on a smoking bank and stood watching the boat disappear on the black waters of Lethe?
Written by Allen Ginsberg | Create an image from this poem

Cosmopolitan Greetings

 To Struga Festival Golden Wreath Laureates
 & International Bards 1986

Stand up against governments, against God.
Stay irresponsible.
Say only what we know & imagine.
Absolutes are coercion.
Change is absolute.
Ordinary mind includes eternal perceptions.
Observe what's vivid.
Notice what you notice.
Catch yourself thinking.
Vividness is self-selecting.
If we don't show anyone, we're free to write anything.
Remember the future.
Advise only yourself.
Don't drink yourself to death.
Two molecules clanking against each other requires an observer to become scientific data.
The measuring instrument determines the appearance of the phenomenal world after Einstein.
The universe is subjective.
Walt Whitman celebrated Person.
We Are an observer, measuring instrument, eye, subject, Person.
Universe is person.
Inside skull vast as outside skull.
Mind is outer space.
"Each on his bed spoke to himself alone, making no sound.
" First thought, best thought.
Mind is shapely, Art is shapely.
Maximum information, minimum number of syllables.
Syntax condensed, sound is solid.
Intense fragments of spoken idiom, best.
Consonants around vowels make sense.
Savor vowels, appreciate consonants.
Subject is known by what she sees.
Others can measure their vision by what we see.
Candor ends paranoia.
Kral Majales June 25, 1986 Boulder, Colorado
Written by Barry Tebb | Create an image from this poem

LETTER TO MICHAEL HOROVITZ

 It is time after thirty years

We had our Poetry Renaissance

Rise, Children of Albion, rise!

It is time after nightmares of sleep

When we walked the streets of inner cities

Our poems among the burnt-out houses

And cars, whispering compassion

To the addicts shaking and the homeless

Waking and those who have come apart

In the nowhere of today

Begging in stations

Sleeping in boxes.
It is time to find Our lost, those children I taught three decades ago To paint on ceilings With sticks of incense Rainbows of silence For John Cage To write on walls In luminous paint Pink haiku For Allen Ginsberg.
It is time to awaken and emblazon the sky With symphonies of sorrow, To draft the articles of war.
Poets of the Underground The doors have opened The ghost of Walt Whitman Grey-bearded, in lonely anguish Walks with us.
Written by David Lehman | Create an image from this poem

Sestina

 for Jim Cummins 

In Iowa, Jim dreamed that Della Street was Anne Sexton's
twin.
Dave drew a comic strip called the "Adventures of Whitman," about a bearded beer-guzzler in Superman uniform.
Donna dressed like Wallace Stevens in a seersucker summer suit.
To town came Ted Berrigan, saying, "My idea of a bad poet is Marvin Bell.
" But no one has won as many prizes as Philip Levine.
At the restaurant, people were talking about Philip Levine's latest: the Pulitzer.
A toast was proposed by Anne Sexton.
No one saw the stranger, who said his name was Marvin Bell, pour something into Donna's drink.
"In the Walt Whitman Shopping Center, there you feel free," said Ted Berrigan, pulling on a Chesterfield.
Everyone laughed, except T.
S.
Eliot.
I asked for directions.
"You turn right on Gertrude Stein, then bear left.
Three streetlights down you hang a Phil Levine and you're there," Jim said.
When I arrived I saw Ted Berrigan with cigarette ash in his beard.
Graffiti about Anne Sexton decorated the men's room walls.
Beth had bought a quart of Walt Whitman.
Donna looked blank.
"Walt who?" The name didn't ring a Marvin Bell.
You laugh, yet there is nothing inherently funny about Marvin Bell.
You cry, yet there is nothing inherently scary about Robert Lowell.
You drink a bottle of Samuel Smith's Nut Brown Ale, as thirsty as Walt Whitman.
You bring in your car for an oil change, thinking, this place has the aura of Philip Levine.
Then you go home and write: "He kissed her Anne Sexton, and she returned the favor, caressing his Ted Berrigan.
" Donna was candid.
"When the spirit of Ted Berrigan comes over me, I can't resist," she told Marvin Bell, while he stood dejected at the xerox machine.
Anne Sexton came by to circulate the rumor that Robert Duncan had flung his drink on a student who had called him Philip Levine.
The cop read him the riot act.
"I don't care," he said, "if you're Walt Whitman.
" Donna told Beth about her affair with Walt Whitman.
"He was indefatigable, but he wasn't Ted Berrigan.
" The Dow Jones industrials finished higher, led by Philip Levine, up a point and a half on strong earnings.
Marvin Bell ended the day unchanged.
Analyst Richard Howard recommended buying May Swenson and selling Anne Sexton.
In the old days, you liked either Walt Whitman or Anne Sexton, not both.
Ted Berrigan changed that just by going to a ballgame with Marianne Moore.
And one day Philip Levine looked in the mirror and saw Marvin Bell.


Written by Ezra Pound | Create an image from this poem

A Pact

 I make a pact with you, Walt Whitman-- 
I have detested you long enough.
I come to you as a grown child Who has had a pig-headed father; I am old enough now to make friends.
It was you that broke the new wood, Now is a time for carving.
We have one sap and one root-- Let there be commerce between us.
Written by Algernon Charles Swinburne | Create an image from this poem

To Walt Whitman In America

 Send but a song oversea for us,
Heart of their hearts who are free,
Heart of their singer, to be for us
More than our singing can be;
Ours, in the tempest at error,
With no light but the twilight of terror;
Send us a song oversea!

Sweet-smelling of pine-leaves and grasses,
And blown as a tree through and through
With the winds of the keen mountain-passes,
And tender as sun-smitten dew;
Sharp-tongued as the winter that shakes
The wastes of your limitless lakes,
Wide-eyed as the sea-line's blue.
O strong-winged soul with prophetic Lips hot with the bloodheats of song, With tremor of heartstrings magnetic, With thoughts as thunders in throng, With consonant ardours of chords That pierce men's souls as with swords And hale them hearing along, Make us too music, to be with us As a word from a world's heart warm, To sail the dark as a sea with us, Full-sailed, outsinging the storm, A song to put fire in our ears Whose burning shall burn up tears, Whose sign bid battle reform; A note in the ranks of a clarion, A word in the wind of cheer, To consume as with lightning the carrion That makes time foul for us here; In the air that our dead things infest A blast of the breath of the west, Till east way as west way is clear.
Out of the sun beyond sunset, From the evening whence morning shall be, With the rollers in measureless onset, With the van of the storming sea, With the world-wide wind, with the breath That breaks ships driven upon death, With the passion of all things free, With the sea-steeds footless and frantic, White myriads for death to bestride In the charge of the ruining Atlantic Where deaths by regiments ride, With clouds and clamours of waters, With a long note shriller than slaughter's On the furrowless fields world-wide, With terror, with ardour and wonder, With the soul of the season that wakes When the weight of a whole year's thunder In the tidestream of autumn breaks, Let the flight of the wide-winged word Come over, come in and be heard, Take form and fire for our sakes.
For a continent bloodless with travail Here toils and brawls as it can, And the web of it who shall unravel Of all that peer on the plan; Would fain grow men, but they grow not, And fain be free, but they know not One name for freedom and man? One name, not twain for division; One thing, not twain, from the birth; Spirit and substance and vision, Worth more than worship is worth; Unbeheld, unadored, undivined, The cause, the centre, the mind, The secret and sense of the earth.
Here as a weakling in irons, Here as a weanling in bands, As a prey that the stake-net environs, Our life that we looked for stands; And the man-child naked and dear, Democracy, turns on us here Eyes trembling with tremulous hands It sees not what season shall bring to it Sweet fruit of its bitter desire; Few voices it hears yet sing to it, Few pulses of hearts reaspire; Foresees not time, nor forehears The noises of imminent years, Earthquake, and thunder, and fire: When crowned and weaponed and curbless It shall walk without helm or shield The bare burnt furrows and herbless Of war's last flame-stricken field, Till godlike, equal with time, It stand in the sun sublime, In the godhead of man revealed.
Round your people and over them Light like raiment is drawn, Close as a garment to cover them Wrought not of mail nor of lawn; Here, with hope hardly to wear, Naked nations and bare Swim, sink, strike out for the dawn.
Chains are here, and a prison, Kings, and subjects, and shame; If the God upon you be arisen, How should our songs be the same? How, in confusion of change, How shall we sing, in a strange Land, songs praising his name? God is buried and dead to us, Even the spirit of earth, Freedom; so have they said to us, Some with mocking and mirth, Some with heartbreak and tears; And a God without eyes, without ears, Who shall sing of him, dead in the birth? The earth-god Freedom, the lonely Face lightening, the footprint unshod, Not as one man crucified only Nor scourged with but one life's rod; The soul that is substance of nations, Reincarnate with fresh generations; The great god Man, which is God.
But in weariest of years and obscurest Doth it live not at heart of all things, The one God and one spirit, a purest Life, fed from unstanchable springs? Within love, within hatred it is, And its seed in the stripe as the kiss, And in slaves is the germ, and in kings.
Freedom we call it, for holier Name of the soul's there is none; Surelier it labours if slowlier, Than the metres of star or of sun; Slowlier than life into breath, Surelier than time into death, It moves till its labour be done.
Till the motion be done and the measure Circling through season and clime, Slumber and sorrow and pleasure, Vision of virtue and crime; Till consummate with conquering eyes, A soul disembodied, it rise From the body transfigured of time.
Till it rise and remain and take station With the stars of the worlds that rejoice; Till the voice of its heart's exultation Be as theirs an invariable voice; By no discord of evil estranged, By no pause, by no breach in it changed, By no clash in the chord of its choice.
It is one with the world's generations, With the spirit, the star, and the sod; With the kingless and king-stricken nations, With the cross, and the chain, and the rod; The most high, the most secret, most lonely, The earth-soul Freedom, that only Lives, and that only is God.
Written by Carl Sandburg | Create an image from this poem

Interior

 IN the cool of the night time
The clocks pick off the points
And the mainsprings loosen.
They will need winding.
One of these days… they will need winding.
Rabelais in red boards, Walt Whitman in green, Hugo in ten-cent paper covers, Here they stand on shelves In the cool of the night time And there is nothing… To be said against them… Or for them… In the cool of the night time And the clocks.
A man in pigeon-gray pyjamas.
The open window begins at his feet And goes taller than his head.
Eight feet high is the pattern.
Moon and mist make an oblong layout.
Silver at the man’s bare feet.
He swings one foot in a moon silver.
And it costs nothing.
One more day of bread and work.
One more day … so much rags… The man barefoot in moon silver Mutters “You” and “You” To things hidden In the cool of the night time, In Rabelais, Whitman, Hugo, In an oblong of moon mist.
Out from the window … prairielands.
Moon mist whitens a golf ground.
Whiter yet is a limestone quarry.
The crickets keep on chirring.
Switch engines of the Great Western Sidetrack box cars, make up trains For Weehawken, Oskaloosa, Saskatchewan; The cattle, the coal, the corn, must go In the night … on the prairielands.
Chuff-chuff go the pulses.
They beat in the cool of the night time.
Chuff-chuff and chuff-chuff… These heartbeats travel the night a mile And touch the moon silver at the window And the bones of the man.
It costs nothing.
Rabelais in red boards, Whitman in green, Hugo in ten-cent paper covers, Here they stand on shelves In the cool of the night time And the clocks.
Written by Robert William Service | Create an image from this poem

The Three Bares

 Ma tried to wash her garden slacks but couldn't get 'em clean
And so she thought she'd soak 'em in a bucket o' benzine.
It worked all right.
She wrung 'em out then wondered what she'd do With all that bucket load of high explosive residue.
She knew that it was dangerous to scatter it around, For Grandpa liked to throw his lighted matches on the ground.
Somehow she didn't dare to pour it down the kitchen sink, And what the heck to do with it, poor Ma jest couldn't think.
Then Nature seemed to give the clue, as down the garden lot She spied the edifice that graced a solitary spot, Their Palace of Necessity, the family joy and pride, Enshrined in morning-glory vine, with graded seats inside; Jest like that cabin Goldylocks found occupied by three, But in this case B-E-A-R was spelt B-A-R-E---- A tiny seat for Baby Bare, a medium for Ma, A full-sized section sacred to the Bare of Grandpapa.
Well, Ma was mighty glad to get that worry off her mind, And hefting up the bucket so combustibly inclined, She hurried down the garden to that refuge so discreet, And dumped the liquid menace safely through the centre seat.
Next morning old Grandpa arose; he made a hearty meal, And sniffed the air and said: 'By Gosh! how full of beans I feel.
Darned if I ain't as fresh as paint; my joy will be complete With jest a quiet session on the usual morning seat; To smoke me pipe an' meditate, an' maybe write a pome, For that's the time when bits o' rhyme gits jiggin' in me dome.
' He sat down on that special seat slicked shiny by his age, And looking like Walt Whitman, jest a silver-whiskered sage, He filled his corn-cob to the brim and tapped it snugly down, And chuckled: 'Of a perfect day I reckon this the crown.
' He lit the weed, it soothed his need, it was so soft and sweet: And then he dropped the lighted match clean through the middle seat.
His little grand-child Rosyleen cried from the kichen door: 'Oh, Ma, come quick; there's sompin wrong; I heared a dreffel roar; Oh, Ma, I see a sheet of flame; it's rising high and higher.
.
.
Oh, Mummy dear, I sadly fear our comfort-cot's caught fire.
' Poor Ma was thrilled with horror at them words o' Rosyleen.
She thought of Grandpa's matches and that bucket of benzine; So down the garden geared on high, she ran with all her power, For regular was Grandpa, and she knew it was his hour.
Then graspin' gaspin' Rosyleen she peered into the fire, A roarin' soarin' furnace now, perchance old Grandpa's pyre.
.
.
.
But as them twain expressed their pain they heard a hearty cheer---- Behold the old rapscallion squattinn' in the duck pond near, His silver whiskers singed away, a gosh-almighty wreck, Wi' half a yard o' toilet seat entwined about his neck.
.
.
.
He cried: 'Say, folks, oh, did ye hear the big blow-out I made? It scared me stiff - I hope you-uns was not too much afraid? But now I best be crawlin' out o' this dog-gasted wet.
.
.
.
For what I aim to figger out is----WHAT THE HECK I ET?'
Written by G K Chesterton | Create an image from this poem

Variations of an Air

 Old King Cole
Was a merry old soul
And a merry old soul was he
He called for his pipe 
and he called for his bowl 
and he called for his fiddlers three


after Lord Tennyson


Cole, that unwearied prince of Colchester, 
Growing more gay with age and with long days 
Deeper in laughter and desire of life 
As that Virginian climber on our walls 
Flames scarlet with the fading of the year; 
Called for his wassail and that other weed 
Virginian also, from the western woods 
Where English Raleigh checked the boast of Spain, 
And lighting joy with joy, and piling up 
Pleasure as crown for pleasure, bade me bring 
Those three, the minstrels whose emblazoned coats 
Shone with the oyster-shells of Colchester; 
And these three played, and playing grew more fain 
Of mirth and music; till the heathen came 
And the King slept beside the northern sea.
after W.
B.
Yeats Of an old King in a story From the grey sea-folk I have heard Whose heart was no more broken Than the wings of a bird.
As soon as the moon was silver And the thin stars began, He took his pipe and his tankard, Like an old peasant man.
And three tall shadows were with him And came at his command; And played before him for ever The fiddles of fairyland.
And he died in the young summer Of the world's desire; Before our hearts were broken Like sticks in a fire.
after Walt Whitman Me clairvoyant, Me conscious of you, old camarado, Needing no telescope, lorgnette, field-glass, opera-glass, myopic pince-nez, Me piercing two thousand years with eye naked and not ashamed; The crown cannot hide you from me, Musty old feudal-heraldic trappings cannot hide you from me, I perceive that you drink.
(I am drinking with you.
I am as drunk as you are.
) I see you are inhaling tobacco, puffing, smoking, spitting (I do not object to your spitting), You prophetic of American largeness, You anticipating the broad masculine manners of these States; I see in you also there are movements, tremors, tears, desire for the melodious, I salute your three violinists, endlessly making vibrations, Rigid, relentless, capable of going on for ever; They play my accompaniment; but I shall take no notice of any accompaniment; I myself am a complete orchestra.
So long.
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