THE WHITMAN ISSUE

Linda Pastan

 

TO A YOUNG ASTRONOMER: AFTER READING WHITMAN

When you look up at night and see the moon
like a single brilliant sail navigating the dark,
do you think about vectors and orbits
and the mineral content of rocks?

Are you like a weary doctor
returning each evening to his wife,
having handled all day the ruined
bodies of other women,

or like a teacher dissecting a poem
for her yawning class who later,
on the bus ride home perhaps,
reads that poem one more time?

I hope she will be flooded
as she must have been once
with the molten flow of language.
And the doctor I invented for the sake

of this poem, let him look at his wife
waiting so expectantly in the doorway
and be overcome with pure animal desire.
As for you, remember Whitman

who left an astronomy lecture long ago
to watch, in silence, the blazing stars.

 

 

Linda Pastan's tenth book of poems, Carnival Evening: New and Selected Poems: 1968-1998 was a finalist for The National Book Award. From 1991 to 1995 she served as Poet Laureate of Maryland. Her new book, The Last Uncle, has recently been published by Norton. She is the winner of the 2003 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize.


Published in Vol. 6, No. 1, Winter 2004

 

To read more by this author:
Linda Pastan
Linda Pastan: The Wartime Issue
Linda Pastan: DC Places Issue
Linda Pastan: Evolving City Issue
Linda Pastan: Museum Issue

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