to fold the clothes. No matter who lives or who dies, I’m still a woman. I’ll always have plenty to do. I bring the arms of his shirt together. Nothing can stop our tenderness. I’ll get back to the poem. I’ll get back to being a woman. But for now there’s a shirt, a giant shirt in my hands, and somewhere a small girl standing next to her mother watching to see how it’s done.
Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road, Healthy, free, the world before me, The long brown path leading wherever I choose.
Allons! we must not stop here, However sweet these laid-up stores, however convenient this dwelling we cannot remain here, However shelter’d this port and however calm these waters we must not anchor here, However welcome the hospitality that surrounds us we are permitted to receive it but a little while.
Listen! I will be honest with you, I do not offer the old smooth prizes, but offer rough new prizes, These are the days that must happen to you: You shall not heap up what is call’d riches, You shall scatter with lavish hand all that you earn or achieve…
Allons! the road is before us! Camerado, I give you my hand! I give you my love more precious than money, I give you myself before preaching or law; Will you give me yourself? will you come travel with me? Shall we stick by each other as long as we live?
— Walt Whitman
Just a little love note to send you off into Valentine’s weekend. If you’re interested in reading the whole thing, click here. Photo by Millie Holloman.
If you threw her in the water she would float upstream. What if baby Moses had floated upstream, bobbing toward Lake Victoria in his bullrush boat, passing the transfixed laundry women, leaving them behind in a wake of amazement? What would have become of the children of Israel? The middle daughter forgets, there is always history.
Show her white, she sees black. The problem is her vision. From infancy she has thrown off every color we wrapped her in: first the pink, contemptuous, and later even the blue, for reasons we hadn’t the nerve to be thankful for. She wants to wear red, or nothing. And you should see her with her red shirt flapping on her spindle body like some solo flag, marching up the river, leading the salmon to slaughter. She says they aren’t really dying. She says something is born of swimming upstream that finds its way back to the sea and spreads like a grassfire through the seaweed across the floor of underwater continents and finally comes back to the very same river, not one, but a thousand fish, a generation of fish. This middle daughter believes she will make history.
P.S. Read up on other Friday poems here. P.P.S. I am a middle daughter :)
Addison tells of spending his summer clearing the farm his family has owned since the revolutionary war acres and acres of overgrown fields — pastures and hayfields, hedgerows, forest growth — a big enterprise for an ex-farm boy turned minister in a flowing cassock not handy for plowing. I’ve seen him lift the bread and wine in pale hands above the bowing heads of his parishioners.
And as he tells about his summer work I see the chalice turn into a saw, the handles darkened with his father’s sweat, and before that, his grandfather’s, on down the generations until the sad phrase delivered in the garden comes to mind: “sweat of your brow,” which now is Addison’s, clearing the land so that we see the light as it first shone on Adam, pruning turned into a kind of hands-on ministry.
What did he see once the hedgerows were cleared? The skies opening, divine light beaming down on distant vistas of a promised land? Salvation for God’s sweating minister? But he saw only what was there to see — rolling green hills such as a child might draw, cars moving on a distant road like beads on an abacus, a neighbor hanging wash: the earth released and grown so luminous that he was saved simply by seeing it.
P.S. Even though next week is Wedding Week, I’ll be popping in with a few pre-scheduled post… and maybe a few behind-the-scenes details from our preparations! Wish us luck!