Monday, July 4, 2016

Your Very Flesh Shall Be a Great Poem

Subway to the Sea
Wilshire and La Brea
Los Angeles, CA

I love a construction site. Did you know that about me? At the end of my street, the great city of Los Angeles is busy building a subway stop and tunneling through for the great Subway to the Sea that will run from downtown, east of me, to the Pacific Ocean, west of me. Until it's finished, which they're estimating will be a decade from now, the construction and traffic and all manner of just -- well -- shit, is going down, but I aim to make the construction beautiful. As I returned to my neighborhood after a night in Orange County, I drove north on La Brea and looked up into the blue sky to see the biggest flag hanging from a crane, blowing in the breeze and looking pretty damn beautiful against the blue sky. If you know anything about me, you know I'm not particularly patriotic, and I'm not making any apologies for being more of an imagine there's no country, I wonder if you can, kind of woman than one who feels proud of the country that I just happened to be born in instead of any number of other great ones. But today is the fourth of JUUUUUULY, so it's a fine day to celebrate some words of Walt Whitman, probably the quintessential American poet:

This is what you shall do: love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labour to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence towards the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown, or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons, and with the young, and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school, or church, or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul; and your very flesh shall be a great poem, and have the richest fluency, not only in its words, but in the silent lines of its lips and face, and between the lashes of your eyes, and in every motion and joint of your body.

Walt Whitman, 1855 Preface to Leaves of Grass 


  1. What a terrific quote. Walt was ahead of his time!

  2. Sometimes your poetry is just perfectly in synch with what I'm thinking/writing. Thank you. Happy day, my dear. XOXO

  3. Walt. Where did he COME from? I mean...whoa.
    Thank you for sharing that. Today, as I think about the 4th of July and all of that, I'll silently just be grateful that I live in a country where there was a Walt Whitman and that his words live on.
    I might post that quote on Facebook. Thank you. Or just share your post.

  4. And I want to share the quote in email to a very longtime friend. It is beautiful. And I so agree with Ms. Moon. xo

  5. You put that in a post a long time ago and I printed it out and have it up, right here, right now above my computer. I feel so grateful for his words, for his ability to express such beauty. And not to be cheesy, Elizabeth, but I think of you a bit every time I read it and what a perfect day to post it.
    Thank you.

  6. I collect cards. My family mocks me - just a little - for the excess of greeting cards tucked back in my closet. I have one card with that Walt Whitman quote printed on it. I've never mailed it to anyone. I think because I like to read it each time I am searching for a birthday card to send out to a loved one.

  7. Speak it, Walt, you queer pacifist you.

  8. I, like so many others, suffer from metrophobia:) I'm not alone apparently.

    I've never read Walt Whitman, this is lovely. Thank you.



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