(An elegy for Whitman’s poetry)
The prophet arranged his words with delicate care
And spoke them to our souls before the flighty flames of our lamps.
These words comprised hymns that soothed the knife wounds in our backs
And empathetically advised against fanatical nationalism.
When our nightmares of war became realities in our backyards,
The prophet left his Delphic confines and adopted angels’ wings.
He flew out upon the battlefields to cradle the sick
And to sing the wounded to their infinite rest.
But when the cannons ceased their immolating music,
The angel fell, his wings shorn and bloody and tossed atop the corpses.
Though his intellect remained intact, his Delphic visions no longer appeared.
The prophet had become mystically blind, and the angel had fallen.
In his mind, the cradle eventually ceased rocking,
And the wind at last no longer rustled through the leaves of grass.
The war had dissolved a Union, robbed wives of their husbands,
Children of their fathers, and parents of their sons;
But it also cost us a national prophet
And a speaker for our collective American soul.
Requiescat in pace, O amice animi mei.