2 March 2004 | Vol. 4, No. 1

Meditations in the Garden of the Blind (with Whitman's Specimen Days)

Be with me, Whitman, maker of catalogues:

For the world invades me again.

                                             —T. Roethke

There is an end

                             to the mountains.


The rain subtracts

                             from the landscape

              the light it needs to become whole.


There is an end

                             to the creek of wild bees.


Trees I am familiar with here: Oaks, (many kinds) Cedars, plenty

Tulip trees, (Liriodendron, best rais'd from seeds, the lumberman

call it yellow poplar)                          Gum-trees, both sweet and sour

Beeches                            Black-walnuts                                   the Elm

The corn, stack'd in its cone-shaped stacks, russet-color'd and sere

The distant scream of a flock of guinea-hens with pensive cadence

through the tree tops                          The harsh cawing of many crows

a hundred rods away


With each rain, something is taken from us.

                             Night is familiar when it comes,

and it does, of course, as it should.


The city's long-standing grudge

                             gets in the way of the sky,

and I can't do this anymore, not again,

                             another night walking these wet streets.


Like the Dutch peasants' laughter

              when they saw Brueghal's pig

running through the muddy fields

                             with a knife in its ribs.

The pig, stumbling along,

              reveals the simple nature

of rain, its present tense

becoming past so easily

              on the tip of its nose,

the initials carved into the knife's handle

              worn into one blurred letter

                             from so much use.


                             C for the clavicle the prostitutes scratch

C for the chorizo scraped from the floor

              C for the hollowed-out carcasses swimming the eaves

                             C for chosen, cholera, concubine, coxswain


Let me give the names of some of these perennial blossoms

and friendly weeds I have made acquaintance with hereabout

one season or another on my walks:

wild azalea,
wild honeysuckle,
wild roses,
golden rod,
early crocus,
sweet flag, (great patches of it,)
creeper, trumpet flower,
scented marjoram,
Solomon's seal,
sweet balm,
mint, (great plenty,)
wild geranium,
wild heliotrope,
wild pea,
swamp magnolia
wild daisy, (plenty,)
wild chrysanthemum.


There is nothing inside us

                             that does not tremble,

not out of fear, but of necessity:

                             the heart's violet rambling:

              the cloth of ribs, white and wide.


You would think we would be used to it by now,

                             the rain stealing the light,

the whores in galoshes

                             waiting for the slaughterhouse to close,

waiting for the same old blood

                             to gather, dusk-scented, in creases of linen skin,

a steady rain, dark and thick and warm...

the melancholy, draperied night above, around...

                             The truth is, everyone thinks they know rain.

But there is nothing intimate about it.

                             Nothing secretive, disembodied.


In the silence, shadow and delicious odor of the hour,

(the natural perfume belonging to the night alone,)

I thought it rare music...I could make out the bobolink, tanager,

Wilson's thrush, white-crown'd sparrow and occasionally

from high in the air came the notes of the plover...


A table under the willows


pale light in the leaves

                                            a child playing a crude xylophone

Mary had a little lamb

                                            sky of grace         sky of fleece

                                            The willows curtain the creek like a stage

washed green and hovering

                                            rain-damped bark

autumn beginning in the air

                                            in the brailled lung of wood

the crows moving closer


I would fall into this world if I could,

                             and let this final rain soak me through

and for a moment believe that it will be all right.

                              I'll walk and end up in the garden of the blind

with a woman standing in the corn stacks

                             folding a blanket, nightgown or blouse on,

I can't tell, her empty eye-sockets cabbage and moths.

                             She's thinking about the rain, too,

              and beautifully.


I hearby dedicate the last half of these Specimen Days to the

mulleins, tansy, peppermint,
moths, (great and little, some
              splendid fellows,)
glow-worms, (swarming millions
              of them indescribably
              strange and beautiful at
              night over the pond and
water snakes,
wasps and hornets,
cat birds, (and all other birds)
tulip-trees (and all other trees)
and to the spots and memories
of those days, and of the creek.


There would be a silence in the rain and the streets

                             that I would recognize as clarity, or morning,

as I guess it's supposed to happen,

                             wanting so horribly to reach the point where

we no longer tremble under the night's breast,

                             and the trembling's not the worst of it.


Couldn't there be an easier way to live here

              in the rain, in the last, completest, highest beauty?

Tell me: can't a foot against a slender leg

                             in the early white morning

bring us enough satisfaction to stay there under the sheets

              as long as possible,

our hearts blundering forward,

sleep-filled and buoyant,

                             knowing that each eyelid's somber undulation,

each parting tremulous lip,

              is what is pushing us along,

                             away from each other,

from this world, our silent world?


Buckthorn, white birch, woodland sunflower, beaked hazel...

So, winter is coming; and I yet in my sickness...

Jupiter, setting in the west,

looks like a huge hap-hazard splash,

and has a little star for companion...


So, hand me each raindrop's crippled bellow

              and I will carry their voices

where the fireflies gather softly

                             under the magnolias

Hand me the white of the rain

              and I will sleep in it

and there will be nothing in the sky

                              (not one thing at all)

About the author:

Joshua Poteat's first manuscript Ornithologies won the 2004 Anhinga Poetry Prize (published in 2006) and his chapbook Meditations won the Poetry Society of America's 2004 National Chapbook Award. His second manuscript, Illustrating the Machine that Makes the World: From J.G. Heck's 1851 Pictorial Archive of Nature and Science, was accepted as a part of the newly revamped Contemporary Poets Series from the University of Georgia Press/Virginia Quarterly Review (publication date TBA). Poems from the second manuscript have won the Ruth Stone Poetry Prize from Hunger Mountain, and have been recently published in Virginia Quarterly Review, Indiana Review, Ninth Letter, American Letters & Commentary, Quarterly West, Bat City Review, Typo, Copper Nickel, Backwards City Review, Handsome, and others.'; if (strpos($_SERVER['REQUEST_URI'],'galleys')) {?>

Author's note: "Appendix:             in           Snow" and "Appendix:           the           Blind (         Specimen    )" are appendices/erasures/ruins/white-outs/bones of my poems, "Meditations in Desert Snow" and "Meditations in the Garden of the Blind (with Whitman's Specimen Days)," previously published in 42opus. Some may call it editing, others just a gimmicky way to get two poems out of one. However, this method has been popular since the 1920s-era Surrealists, perhaps even earlier. For the most part, the goal of my project is to find the ghost underneath the ghost.

For further reading:

See the complete list of work by Joshua Poteat at 42opus. Browse the contents of 42opus Vol. 4, No. 1, where "Meditations in the Garden of the Blind (with Whitman's Specimen Days)" ran on March 2, 2004. List other work with these same labels: poetry.

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