Tag Archives: Walt Whitman

#218: Long Lines for the 27th of the Month of April

England - English Summer Woods

Because the spring beats its rhythm in the head of the school kids anxious for the arrival of Summer break,

because teachers are either counting the days or trying to hold them back, having way too much shit to do and not nearly enough time to do it,

because there’s the promise of music blaring from the stereo inside so that it can be felt outside in the yard while the kids play frisbee,

because we can bring beach chairs to the zoo for outdoor concerts and fireworks displays that sound like warfare even though we’ve been trained not to think of it that way,

because the bbq comes out of its detention in the garage and will live on the front porch for the next five months where it will be fired up every other day,

because the mowers will be out polluting the neighborhood with their beautiful ugliness, the smell of gasoline mixed with cut grass in the air like a rose,

because the trailers will be hitched and pulled to their idyllic destinations on the coast or in the woods where the campfires burn and campers sip bourbon from plastic cups,

because all camp is in session, horse camp, trackers camp, sports camp, band camp and camp of all camp for you, Mr. Jarmer: writers camp,

because the bugs will be out in force having skated through a stupidly mild winter completely unscathed and ready to rock and roll,

because we welcome the heat even while it frightens us and kills our grass and burns our skin,

because we can see the stars, we say welcome summer, come summer, bring it on, baby.

 

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#25: The American Teenager Has A Theory About Walt Whitman

Walt

The American Teenager Has A Theory About Walt Whitman

Looking for inspiration for
his own portrait of the poet,
referencing a famous drawing
of Uncle Walt,
hand on his hip, in a gesture
of confidence, I’d say,
with a kind of challenging
and quizzical look in his
handsome, young face,
the boy says,
Was Walt Whitman gay?
And I say,
Well, now that you’ve
drawn a broad stereotype
based on a single pose in a drawing,
based on a single image of the poet,
the truth of the matter is that, yes,
he was most likely gay.
The boy’s portrait turns out
to be a nightmare,
homophobic and offensive,
Walt, rather impressively drawn,
but adorned with lipstick
and eye make-up,
wearing a nurse’s cap.
I’m angry, and displaying the
work to the entire class,
I explain why this one
won’t be on display in
the classroom, how it
is wrong on so many levels,
even getting the stereotype backwards,
assuming gay men must really want to
be women, but worse, attempting to make fun
of the poet’s sexual orientation
by turning him into some kind of clown.
But what truly amazes
me is the boy’s good natured response,
as if in a moment he could actually see
something he couldn’t see as he was feeling
so clever about his apparently accurate theory
about Walt and giddy about his ingenious artistic
representation. He could see
for a moment the wrong turns
of his thinking, the assumptions he was making,
and suddenly for him “weird” became just “different”
and of absolutely no threat or consequence
to the way this boy chose to live his own life.
And in that same moment
I felt I had actually done some teaching.

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