04 January 2017

Poem-A-Day #310 : When Lilacs Last

This is an erasure of the last section of Walt Whitman's "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d" is my attempt at distillation. Whitman used 100 words where 1 would work. He was amazing and infuriating for this reason. I think this version gets the same point across. Quickly.

You can read the full poem at Poetry Foundation.


When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d

16
Passing the visions, passing the night,
Passing, unloosing the hold
of my comrades’ hands,
Passing the song of the hermit bird and the tallying song of my soul,
Victorious song,
death’s outlet song, yet varying ever-altering song,
As low
and wailing, yet clear the notes, rising and falling, flooding the night,
Sadly sinking and fainting, as warning and warning, and yet again bursting with joy,

Covering the earth and filling the spread of the heaven,
As that powerful psalm in the night I heard from recesses,
Passing, I leave
thee lilac with heart-shaped leaves,
I leave thee there in the door-yard, blooming, returning with spring.

I cease from my song for thee,
From my gaze on thee in the west, fronting the west, communing with thee,
O comrade lustrous
with silver face in the night.

Yet each to keep and all, retrievements out of the night,
The song, the wondrous chant of the gray-brown bird,

And the tallying chant, the echo arous’d in my soul,
With
the lustrous and drooping star with the countenance full of woe,
With the
holders holding my hand nearing the call of the bird,
Comrades mine and
I in the midst, and their memory ever to keep, for the dead I loved so well,
For the sweetest, wisest soul of all my days and lands—and this for his dear sake,
Lilac and star and bird twined with the chant of my soul,
There in the fragrant pines and the cedars
dusk and
dim.