Skirting the river road, (my forenoon walk, my rest,)
Skyward in air a sudden muffled sound, the dalliance of the eagles,
The rushing amorous contact high in space together,
The clinching interlocking claws, a living, fierce, gyrating wheel,
Four beating wings, two beaks, a swirling mass tight grappling,
In tumbling turning clustering loops, straight downward falling,
Till o’er the river pois’d, the twain yet one, a moment’s lull,
A motionless still balance in the air, then parting, talons loosing,
Upward again on slow-firm pinions slanting, their separate diverse flight,
She hers, he his, pursuing.
*Whitman himself had never seen the mating of eagles but wrote the poem – with much reworking – from a description given him by the naturalist John Burroughs.
The names that have been unnamed arise, cold & clear
as the inscriptions upon the virgin stone. There, the rubies shone
against the onyx; there, those charnel house weathers, & the love
that must emerge like love. On the other side of the world, my
best friend dressed only in small brass cymbals. They were the size
of quarters & linked by either wire or cord. He had no idea what it
meant. He knew only as he moved each movement was announced by
the most glorious sound, chimes & rattles & an iridescence in the ear –
the golden weather of himself shimmering everywhere. When they
found him later, dead, they said how pagan he’d become in his nakedness, in his glory.
These are calamitous times we’re living through you can’t speak without committing a contradiction or keep quiet without complicity with the Pentagon. Everyone knows there’s no alternative possible all roads lead to Cuba but the air is dirty breathing is a futile act. The enemy says the country is to blame as if countries were men. Accursed clouds circle accursed volcanos accursed embarkations launch accursed expeditions accursed trees crumble on accursed birds: it was all polluted to begin with.
Nature’s first green is gold, Her hardest hue to hold. Her early leaf’s a flower; But only so an hour. Then leaf subsides to leaf. So Eden sank to grief, So dawn goes down to day. Nothing gold can stay.