Walt Whitman Visits the White House
by Bob Schwartz
The White House would benefit from many visitors. The founders of the republic, particularly the authors of the Federalist Papers. Abraham Lincoln would be a welcome presence. Above all, the current White House needs poetry, most especially the poet who most embodied, ahead of his time, the spirit of the ages taking form in the present American ideal.
As it happens, Walt Whitman recently visited the White House. This is how it went.
DJT: Who the hell are you? How did you get in here?
WW: I am large, I contain multitudes. I am Walt Whitman. I live here in Washington and work for the Attorney General. I am also a poet.
DJT: You work for Barr? (picks up phone) Get me Barr. Bill, there’s some homeless guy here who says he works for you.
WW: Let me read you a poem about an election.
DJT (hangs up phone): About my election?
WW: It is called Election Day: November 1884
If I should need to name, O Western World, your powerfulest scene and show,
‘Twould not be you, Niagara—nor you, ye limitless prairies—nor your huge rifts of canyons, Colorado,
Nor you, Yosemite—nor Yellowstone, with all its spasmic geyser-loops ascending to the skies, appearing and disappearing,
Nor Oregon’s white cones—nor Huron’s belt of mighty lakes—nor Mississippi’s stream:
—This seething hemisphere’s humanity, as now, I’d name—the still small voice vibrating—America’s choosing day,
(The heart of it not in the chosen—the act itself the main, the quadriennial choosing,)
The stretch of North and South arous’d—sea-board and inland—Texas to Maine—the Prairie States—Vermont, Virginia, California,
The final ballot-shower from East to West—the paradox and conflict,
The countless snow-flakes falling—(a swordless conflict,
Yet more than all Rome’s wars of old, or modern Napoleon’s:)
the peaceful choice of all,
Or good or ill humanity—welcoming the darker odds, the dross:
—Foams and ferments the wine? it serves to purify—while the
heart pants, life glows:
These stormy gusts and winds waft precious ships,
Swell’d Washington’s, Jefferson’s, Lincoln’s sails.
DJT: Yeah, Mississippi, Texas, Virginia, they’re going to swell my sails! My heart pants, I get it. Napoleon, I like the sound of that. I’m going to tweet about you right now. How do you like Wild Walt?
WW: Another poem:
To the States or any one of them, or any city of the States, Resist
much, obey little,
Once unquestioning obedience, once fully enslaved,
Once fully enslaved, no nation, state, city of this earth, ever
afterward resumes its liberty.
DJT: Resist much, obey little!? (picks up phone again) Get this bum out of here!
WW: I’ll be back. Be best.