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C.N.P Poetry 

  • Writer's pictureCathexis Northwest Press

A lesbian's response to Whitman; True Crime with Walt Whitman

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,

balks account

I am still learning her

love-looks, its risings,

her red-running blood,

flex, continuous skin,

temples, backbones,


& sacred

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."


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