What if Walt Whitman had a newsletter?

This is a COMPLETELY MADE UP letter from Walt Whitman to his newsletter subscribers. Do not mistake anything in here as facts that actually happened to America’s Bard!

Dearest Friend,

Today I sit at my office. I haven’t been at my desk much these months. The doctors say the outdoors is good for my lungs, so these weary legs have wandered my local New Jersey streets and our lovely parks instead.

I confess, I go more to observe than exercise. What wordsmith can say otherwise? The fact that it keeps the physician happy is a secondary positive. I like seeing the people rummage about their day, to and fro like a wind-blown flag. It denotes energy. And life. And future.

When I roamed these streets in 1861, the experience was quite different. You will recall—I do not doubt your streets were similarly hopeless. What a luxury to have survived. To have moved past the darkest night of our country. And to have won a just cause while still maintaining a whole nation.

They say only the Old Folk keep opining about the same sentimental topics, years on end. Well, my age is no secret nor shame. My energy has gone the way of the Confederacy—about at the same time, too. Perhaps that is what makes me see war in every image. Or perhaps it is what connects me, in some cosmic thread, to the legacy of what we lived through. 

Take the gentleman on my walk just yesterday, who happened to lower himself on the bench next to me on Grand Avenue—directly across from my favorite Italian bakery. He sat slowly, one hand clutching a cane. Middle-aged now, but no doubt the peg that served as his left shin was given to him in his youth. I cannot say for certain, of course, not being so indecent as to ask. 

His weathered face reminded me of another young soldier I met, this one during the war, in a foul-smelling tent outside Franklin, TN. Both men had similar shaggy, red hair that lopped toward their right eye. And a similar smile. It was one of the more interesting conversations I had during the war. This soldier was the son of a midwestern farmer. One autumn, he was harvesting his family’s wheat crop, when the horse team stopped in the middle of the field, unable to be convinced to carry on. The soldier investigated what had stopped them–a man-sized wooden casket was in the field, wheat stalks grown up all around it. Understandably nervous, the soldier called his father and brothers to the scene. When they finally–nervously–popped the lid apart, no cadaver was inside. Instead, they found paper bags filled with glass bottles of lumpy milk, a hunk of bacon, and lots of mold. The contents from someone’s grocery haul!

I’ll never forget the two of us laughing together as he sat propped up on a bed, wincing a few times between the laughter as his chest shook.

A moment of cheer during a dark time. 

When these old lungs of mine do finally give out, I hope my casket, too, gets lost on its way to the undertaker. A better story, don’t you think?

P.S. Thank you to everyone who has purchased my latest poetry collection. If you are so inclined, I would be indebted for you to leave a review here {link}.