The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review

Poem for Tuesday

The Wound-Dresser
By Walt Whitman


An old man bending I come among new faces,
Years looking backward resuming in answer to children,
Come tell us old man, as from young men and maidens that love me,
(Arous'd and angry, I'd thought to beat the alarum, and urge relentless war,
But soon my fingers fail'd me, my face droop'd and I resign'd myself,
To sit by the wounded and soothe them, or silently watch the dead;)
Years hence of these scenes, of these furious passions, these chances,
Of unsurpass'd heroes (was one side so brave? the other was equally brave;)
Now be witness again, paint the mightiest armies of earth,
Of those armies so rapid so wondrous what saw you to tell us?
What stays with you latest and deepest? of curious panics,
Of hard-fought engagements or sieges tremendous what deepest remains?


O maidens and young men I love and that love me,
What you ask of my days those the strangest and sudden your talking recalls,
Soldier alert I arrive after a long march cover'd with sweat and dust,
In the nick of time I come, plunge in the fight, loudly shout in the rush of successful charge,
Enter the captur'd works—yet lo, like a swift-running river they fade,
Pass and are gone they fade—I dwell not on soldiers' perils or soldiers' joys
(Both I remember well—many the hardships, few the joys, yet I was content).

But in silence, in dreams' projections,
While the world of gain and appearance and mirth goes on,
So soon what is over forgotten, and waves wash the imprints off the sand,
With hinged knees returning I enter the doors (while for you up there,
Whoever you are, follow without noise and be of strong heart).

Bearing the bandages, water and sponge,
Straight and swift to my wounded I go,
Where they lie on the ground after the battle brought in,
Where their priceless blood reddens the grass, the ground,
Or to the rows of the hospital tent, or under the roof'd hospital,
To the long rows of cots up and down each side I return,
To each and all one after another I draw near, not one do I miss,
An attendant follows holding a tray, he carries a refuse pail,
Soon to be fill'd with clotted rags and blood, emptied, and fill'd again.

I onward go, I stop,
With hinged knees and steady hand to dress wounds,
I am firm with each, the pangs are sharp yet unavoidable,
One turns to me his appealing eyes—poor boy! I never knew you,
Yet I think I could not refuse this moment to die for you, if that would save you.


On, on I go, (open doors of time! open hospital doors!)
The crush'd head I dress (poor crazed hand tear not the bandage away),
The neck of the cavalry-man with the bullet through and through I examine,
Hard the breathing rattles, quite glazed already the eye, yet life struggles hard
(Come sweet death! be persuaded O beautiful death!
In mercy come quickly).

From the stump of the arm, the amputated hand,
I undo the clotted lint, remove the slough, wash off the matter and blood,
Back on his pillow the soldier bends with curv'd neck and side-falling head,
His eyes are closed, his face is pale, he dares not look on the bloody stump,
And has not yet look'd on it.

I dress a wound in the side, deep, deep,
But a day or two more, for see the frame all wasted and sinking,
And the yellow-blue countenance see.
I dress the perforated shoulder, the foot with the bullet-wound,
Cleanse the one with a gnawing and putrid gangrene, so sickening, so offensive,
While the attendant stands behind aside me holding the tray and pail.

I am faithful, I do not give out,
The fractur'd thigh, the knee, the wound in the abdomen,
These and more I dress with impassive hand (yet deep in my breast a fire, a burning flame).


Thus in silence in dreams' projections,
Returning, resuming, I thread my way through the hospitals,
The hurt and wounded I pacify with soothing hand,
I sit by the restless all the dark night, some are so young,
Some suffer so much, I recall the experience sweet and sad,
(Many a soldier's loving arms about this neck have cross'd and rested,
Many a soldier's kiss dwells on these bearded lips).


This poem is in honor of New Amsterdam, on which I enjoyed the flashbacks vastly better than the present-tense storyline this week (liked the story with the veteran but hated hated the one with the doctor). False memory syndrome is so complicated and controversial, and the way the woman who remembered being sexually abused was simply dismissed as obviously misled because charismatic doctors and cops can mislead pretty much really turned my stomach. On the other hand, the Civil War-era storyline was nicely done, with the guy who lost his leg reminding me a bit of Christian Bale's character in 3:10 To Yuma, and yay, Whitman, despite the implausibility of the scene with the book! I'm apathetic to the doctor who may be The One as a character, but now that I know she's married I really dislike John asking her out. He may be ancient but he's not very grown up.

Before New Amsterdam we watched Canterbury's Law, which didn't impress me all that much even though I usually like Julianna Margulies; I didn't like the alternating ice princess and bleeding heart personas, I didn't like how bam-bam obvious the case was, I didn't like the tag-line typical "this lawyer crosses the line for her clients" (I remember when she was the doctor and it was "this doctor crosses the line for her patients"). I'm always happy to see a smart woman on TV but I'm not sure how smart this one is; when she was arguing with the guy she works with, I had a flashback from Shark where Sebastian too often right and Jessica was too often wrong. I have plenty of TV shows as it is, so I doubt I'll return to that one.

The O from the Alphabet of Orchids at the US Botanic Garden and the fountains behind it.

The range of orchid colors always amazes me.

I love this glossy sun-yellow one.

I'm not trying to name the flowers because I didn't keep track of all of their scientific designations.

Some of these would have looked right at home in the butterfly exhibit.

I believe these are a variety of trumpet orchid.

And here, to end this post, is the Z from the alphabet.

Entertainment first for a change, so, my day: I spent the hours from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. waiting for UPS to deliver a package (with my new VR lens whoooo!), finally called Paul to ask if he could work from home and wait for it since both kids had dentist appointments and they told me it required a signature at time of delivery, took the kids to the appointments and celebrated their lack of cavities with Mrs. Fields cookies for them (*duh*), made Daniel an appointment to have his front teeth bonded over spring break, came home for dinner and to help Adam plan various projects (he needs to decorate a hat with stuff connected to Charles Darwin for one and needs to dress like a mountain climber for another -- anyone have carabiners and an ice axe I can borrow?).

Have had a distant family tragedy -- a relative by marriage whom I barely knew, but my closer relatives are very upset, so it's sad and stressful. And Paul found out a couple of days ago that he has to go to New York for business for three days next week, so bleh. Not a happy evening at all. *puts on The High Kings again to relax*

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