THE WHITMAN ISSUE
Jean H. Johnson
WALT WHITMAN VISITS THE CIVIL WAR HOSPITAL IN THE PATENT OFFICE
(NOW THE NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY)
My progress from bed to bed
has taken half the night
but no soldier has been ignored:
a pencil, stamps, a lemon - a hug.
Sometimes I think it is my own health
that helps them most to be soothed.
Tonight I brought horehound drops
to the boy from Iowa, he has typhoid
but his sore throat hurts him most.
I held him in my lap to suck the drop.
At last, alcoved between glass cases
waiting for me, two boys from Brooklyn,
one with his leg cut off above the knee
the other bandaged like a mummy,
but they grin when I embrace them,
careful not to hurt. In the case at their feet
is the field camp of General Washington,
tents neatly rolled, his chair, and even his wig.
Mother has sent the Brooklyn Eagle
and as I read, they interrupt to recall
escapades along that stream,
people they know and some I know
as well. Their eyes begin to shine
as they remember their mischief
So few months ago
when they were boys.
Jean H. Johnson's book of poems, Forgotten Alphabet, was published by Scop Publications, Inc. in 1994. She has read her poems in many places around the DC area including the Library of Congress, the Corcoran School of Art, and The Writers' Center. She has been a Fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and the Jenny McKean Moore seminar at George Washington University, and her work has appeared in Poet Lore, the Larcom Review, the Hampton-Sydney Review, the Potomac Review, and other journals.
Read more poems by Jean H. Johnson