Leaves of Grass (a poem for Walt Whitman)

Written at Esalen on Oct. 29 for the 5th Annual PCC Poetry Jam, MC’d by Drew Dellinger. Minor edits on 11/14/2017.

How, with only twenty-six letters,
do poets dare to spell the smell
of even a mere tuft of grass?

How, with only ten fingers,
do poets come to grips
with galaxies as large as gods
and older than the earth
they walk on?

How, with only two eyes,
do poets sing the twice-reflected sight
of moonlight on the ocean waves?

Poets do not pull the grass
from its home
to smell it.
They let it spell itself
from where it grows.

Its home may seem dirt
for digging graves to you and I,
but poets know,
that is where the grass
turns the lifeless back to light.

Poets bend down to the ground
to wet their tongues on drops of dew.
They place their noses near to rooted plants
to celebrate the solar scent of sunlight green’d.

Poets bow to upright blades of grass.
They lay their heads against the horizon:
one ear down to earth
witnesses the whisperings of worms;
the other, up to heaven,
listens to the liturgy of angels.

A hundred-thousand human words
cannot approach
the worth of one earthworm—
each an ouroboric world unto itself.

Each leaf of grass,
a unique universe.
Every blade, a loyal renegade:
sharing a single soil bed,
content to create
without contention or copyright.

Fed freely by the Sun,
these leaves write for fun.

Step lightly, lest you trample on
the children of stars as you go.

Learn from poets
to stand in silence,
to hear the pages of the trees
turning in the wind,
and to read on them
the teachings of Earth’s ages.
Learn to listen as Nature speaks:
Every fallen leaf a eulogy for summer’s passing,
every writhing worm another written word
in the memoir of the world.

Poets do not pull the grass
from its home
to smell it.
They let it spell itself
from where it grows.

7 Replies to “Leaves of Grass (a poem for Walt Whitman)”

  1. Interesting poem Matt…I shall read it again shortly. I am happy you are still using this medium to communicate your deepest thoughts. Would be nice to hear your news sometime. Can I post a recent poem of mine up here? Lets try:
    The Glaciers

    “And death shall have no dominion…
    Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again.” Dylan Thomas.

    I almost hear them go,
    The growlers breaking off,
    Into the rising sea.
    Chile’s Jorge Montt,
    Or Athabascar in the north.
    They’ve shaped the awesome
    Valleys of my world.
    A boy in Borrowdale
    And Esk,
    An old man now in Maam
    And Innagh.

    They’ve made the way
    My Earth flows,
    From high bog, mere soakage,
    A dialogue with cloud
    And then the sudden spring
    Into all the frozen architecture
    Of that now empty space,
    The wide cathedralled space,
    That seems too large to hold me.
    While the small stream swells,
    A last turbulence falls,
    Finally flows,
    Flows to the full-fathomed sea.

    I ride astride a dolphin’s back
    Or deeper,
    Deeper with pearled eyes,
    Look up to greet
    The dark-brown gaze
    Of one, last, white, bear.

    The Glaciers

    “And death shall have no dominion…
    Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again.” Dylan Thomas.

    I almost hear them go,
    The growlers breaking off,
    Into the rising sea.
    Chile’s Jorge Montt,
    Or Athabascar in the north.
    They’ve shaped the awesome
    Valleys of my world.
    A boy in Borrowdale
    And Esk,
    An old man now in Maam
    And Innagh.

    They’ve made the way
    My Earth flows,
    From high bog, mere soakage,
    A dialogue with cloud
    And then the sudden spring
    Into all the frozen architecture
    Of that now empty space,
    The wide cathedralled space,
    That seems too large to hold me.
    While the small stream swells,
    A last turbulence falls,
    Finally flows,
    Flows to the full-fathomed sea.

    I ride astride a dolphin’s back
    Or deeper,
    Deeper with pearled eyes,
    Look up to greet
    The dark-brown gaze
    Of one, last, white, bear.

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