By: Virginia Laurie
A lesbian's response to Whitman
I want to sing again:
her body, electric
I want her performance
& her sacred
I know a woman
who trips me, her face,
which, like the moon,
I am still learning her
love-looks, its risings,
her red-running blood,
flex, continuous skin,
Have you ever loved the body of a woman?
Yes, I answer
Yes, I am trying to,
in the sunburnt shade,
an exquisite realization.
True Crime with Walt Whitman
They stood outside the diner by the juke box,
but the juke box was a dumpster, and one of
them was a body. Now, Whitman will tell you
the soul is the body is the soul, but I will tell
you this body had no curious tendons, no embers
in the brain inside its skull-folds. I will tell you this
body was still warm, but there was no sympathy,
no maternity left. I will even tell you who did it.
The first one did it. A father at an auction, the
meanest at the wharf. The husband with the strong
leg fibers. What did they use? A garotte. Made of
what? Would tendon upset you? Forefinger and
wrist-bone? Would it be better or worse if the
killing thing was human along with the killed? I
will let you off the hook this time, it was a piece
of cloth cut from the back of a dress. A nice one,
the nicest one in this killed-thing’s closet. And
now, you are left with nothing but the jaw of the
deed, its hinges. You want to know the reclining,
red-running question: Why? Why her? What did
she do? But you know this one already, and she
knew too. She was the womb at the auction house
and going about the business of sanity. She, both,
active and passive, did nothing, really. You are
disappointed now. This is a boring script. It is jaw-
dropping and utmost. It is dull-faced by now. But
enough of her, please, I’m weary. I am looking for
a pulse, digestion, the ghost of it. Why did he do it?
I tell you, reader, you know this one too. Because
the corrupted cannot conceal themselves. They can
not sing, and they want to make their bodies electric.
Virginia Laurie is a student at Washington and Lee University whose work has been published/is forthcoming in Apricity, LandLocked, Panoply, Phantom Kangaroo, Merrimack Review and more.
Artist statement for "A lesbian's response" :
"I've always admired Whitman's work for its boldness, especially in regards to sexuality. I chose to borrow some of his words, picked and reordered to fit my view and intent, in an attempt to borrow his nerve as well. In a poem where I don a label that has terrified me, I called on Whitman's spirit to help me shed residual shame and doubt in the hopes that one day, I will not need to call upon any writer's pride but my own."