American Muse: T. R. Hummer


“Whitman’s Pantry”

Dried beans in a muslin sack, tied shut with greasy string.
An ounce of ginger root to brew digestif,
Procured on physician’s advice from an “Oriental” grocer
at remarkable expense, desiccated now almost
Past recognition. Half a pound of sowbelly wrapped
in cheesecloth. Hard cheese. A licorice twist.
A box of sugar cubes to meliorate bitter tea—with these
you could construct a model of the odd granite tomb
He insisted on for his own final habitation.
There in his beloved Camden he rests in a blank box.
You may count there twelve thoracic vertebrae,
two lunate bones, two trapeziums, a coccyx,
And all the rest, to the final mystic number two hundred and six.
His book is a homemade Bible. His tomb is a homemade Blake.
Here is the skull-cup that held the brain his doctors lifted.
He was the catalog of his perfect body. In love with health,
He ate grim food. Behold his ounce of flour, cut with weevils.
Behold his dried orange peel, studded with a sorry clove.
This pantry is a compost now. It is small; it contains millipedes.
The bottom shelf reveals this lunar dust, a Kosmos in it
Writ in groceries. “Here,” as he never said. I hold it toward you.


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