Fractured Verse
{A Bumbershoot Special Feature}

Walt Whitman

Song of Myself As fractured by Carol Lewis

I celebrate myself and sing
myself. What I assume’s the thing
that you shall. Every molecule
in me belongs to you, too, you’ll
be glad to know. I loaf and I
invite my soul to stop on by.
I lean and loaf and—well, who knows?—
just watch the grass or count my toes.
(I’ve ten as of the current count,
which seems to Me a fine amount!)
Born here of parents born right here.
their parents too (or very near),
and so on–well, you get the gist;
I’m not a genealogist.
A strong and healthy specimen
of thirty-seven, I begin,
intending not to cease until
I’ve kicked the bucket, free of will,
for creeds and schools are in abey-
ance. Here’s what nature has to say:

I think that I shall go repose
beside the wood without my clothes.
I’ll sit upon the bank unclad.
I’ll do this now because I’m mad
for contact with the atmosphere,
which I consider quite the dear.

I’ve heard the talkers talking, friend,
of the beginning and the end.
I do not talk of these because
no start or ending ever was.

Urge and urge and urge, the core
of everything is sex. No more
can fruitfully be said. (But you
bear with me for a page or two.)

Trippers and askers all surround
me, people that I meet around,
my childhood, how my trousers feel,
the mustard on my beard, the real
or fancied look of hatred from
some woman I’ve just kissed; these come
each day and night quite endlessly,
but they are not myself, the Me.
The Me, both in and out of touch,
stands here, apart, not doing much.

Soul, I recall the summer day
your head upon my lap you lay.
You reached and gently moved apart
my shirt, and then French-kissed my heart.

A child said What’s the grass? and brought
it to me with full hands. I thought,
How can I answer him? Then I
informed him, It’s the flag of my
disposition, the handkerchief
of God (Can you imagine if
He blew His nose?),
                       itself a child,
the vegetation’s baby, wild
and free,
            or it’s the uncut hair
of graves, deserving tender care.

Before I’d time to add another,
The child ran screaming for his mother.

Has anyone supposed that it
is lucky to be born? Well, shit,
it’s just as lucky when you die,
I hasten to maintain, and I
am sure, for often I’ve seen death
and also witnessed the first breath
of babes, and I can tell you that
I’m not between my boots and hat.

The baby sleeps. I lift aside
the gauze. I see the suicide
and lots of others.

                       Clear light plays
on grass I have some funny ways
of harvesting.

                       I helped to save,
by treating him, a wounded slave
in flight. When he resumed his route,
before he left, he didn’t shoot

            Woman watching twenty-eight
young men, gets into quite a state.

The butcher boy puts off his clothes.
I watch the blacksmiths’ anvil blows.

The negro firmly holds the reins,
the block now swags beneath the chains.
I love this gentle giant who
works thus. The horses, they’re cute, too.


            The pure contralto sings,
the mate stands braced, the surgeon swings
an organ toward the pail, the young
man drives the cart, the convict’s hung,
the hooker bobs, and she can hear
men laugh at her dark oaths and jeer
(I do not laugh or jeer); all these
are of My song; they’re like more Me’s.

Of old and also young I am,
Of t-bone eaters and of spam-,
Of every hue and cast and heft.

I breathe the air, but there’s some left.

These are the thoughts of all men, for
they’re nothing if they aren’t your
thoughts too.

                       With music strong I come.
With my cornet and with my drum.

I tell you, everyone’s invited.
I’ll not have anybody slighted.
Kept woman or venerealee,
it matters not a jot to me.
What? Did you take it that I would
astonish you? Is that so good?
Do blue jays or a sun-drenched sky
astonish? Well, then why should I?
You know, I might not tell this to
just anyone, but I’ll tell you.
(Forget what I just said about
not leaving anybody out.)

How is it that I can extract
strength from the slop I eat? In fact,
what is a person? All I know
is: Me-wards all things always flow.

I’m poet of both Soul and Body.

I like the sea.

                       Time ain’t too shoddy.

Walt Whitman, cosmos: I am him,
and no more modest than I’m im-.

The sun would kill me, but I send
the sunrise out from me, ascend
while speech provokes me: Hey, you lout.
You’ve got enough, Walt. Let some out

I feel the baffling puzzle at
the heart of Being.

                       “Be.” What’s that?

I’m given up by traitors. Whoa!
I’ve lost my wits, it’s I and no
one else who am the traitor, I
was carried to the headland by
my hands.



                                         A leaf of grass
is what stars make in Home Ec class.

I think that I could turn and live
with animals. They couldn’t give
a damn and they are self-contained,
they never lie awake nights pained
because of something that they’ve done,
not one’s dissatisfied, not one
will sweat and whine and make a fuss,
they do not make me sick discuss-
ing God, not one’s unhappy or

            I grow, I soar.

But I am quite religious, too,
a Christian-Pagan-Muslim Jew.

My lovers stifle me.
                       A few
quadrillion eras? Yeah? What’s new?

Who learns through Me how to destroy
the teacher honors Me. The boy
I love, the same becomes a man,
his own, and wicked rather than
commendable through fear or through
conformity. So stray, but who
can stray from me? Confused? Well, at
the heights, seek out the nearest gnat.

You bitter hug, mortality,
it’s idle to try frightening me.
And you, corpse, I think you are good
            Life, I wish you would
say something.
                       Something is in me
which makes me calm though I can’t see
it and no dictionary says
just what it is.
                       The past and pres-
ent wilt. You, listener, don’t hide
up there. What have you to confide
in me? (Talk quick, I can’t stay on,
I’m in a hurry.) Do I con-
tradict myself? Well, okay, I
do contradict. I’m a big guy.

The spotted hawk accuses me,
he doesn’t like my gab and he
complains about my loitering.
I too am nohow tamed. I sing
the untranslatable, sound my
barbaric yawp across the sky.

I go as air,
            but I bequeath
myself unto the dirt beneath
the grass I love. To look for me
again, you’d best step carefully.


Leaves of Myself As fractured by Chris O’Carroll

I loiter gladly, grok the grass.
This world is one vast piece of ass,
And death is nothing we should fear—
When I am gone, I’ll still be here.