Reading Whitman Postpartum

Lesley Jenike

“A child said What is the grass? fetching it to me with full hands”

It’s wild love elsewise mowed by the young

and sleeveless. It’s play catch. It makes dull thuds.

It’s blades are among us, and having died

as he lived — in the grass — it’s fodder for

our dead dog and Berber in the great room,

umbrage for those whose brick courtyards tousle

in wind and twinkle with cricket and matchstick,

with bottle cap and tick, a harmonium

of spit thread and leaf droning among the slabs,

calling all faithful to lay down and make do.

He Who Would Not Change Diapers carried me

on his back as he cut the grass, they say.

Now my daughter, resplendent on her eighth-

month blanket, with an arm like a slow crane,

scoops then lifts to the waiting garden of

her mouth the loose fringe and change for compost.

If we let her swallow, a lawn will grow;

it’s the pulped guts of grassland beasts left

in the sun to make photographs. It’s more

of a good thing and of course it’s less.

It’s rot begging with small hands to enter

the mall, the Auto Zone, the Venice

of our old neighborhoods, mooring the bee

that bobs at their docks. It’s spangled night

in grey scale, till morning wet with drool.

It’s the cool floor of a tent pitched. It’s go

fetch and hurry, turn russet. It’s waiting,

stultified under snow. It’s slow cartwheels

then who knows — calling her in for supper

only to find a different pair of shoes,

scuffed and grassy, kicked off in a hurry

by the door, and her voice calling for you.

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