An ode to self

Walt Whitman, you shabby bastard, reincarnated
as a straight man with dying honey skin, teeth like
sorrowed chiclets, bleeding yellow—a coward,
a hypocrite, a liar, a farce, a façade of a man,
speaking with an almost bass, smoky voice,
thickened by the Indian accent, just like belly fat.

Does the rum give you solace, a harsh catharsis?
Do cigarettes & coffee give you an old school aubade?
Do the pills you pop give you a blurry epiphany?

Forever histrionic & theatrical—
a pitiful demoniac’s twisted, sick despair—
a drift between distress & the hysterical—
forever searching for a life that’s just & fair—

Your wife’s cuckolding you in the next room
while you search for answers reading books,
you hear her moans, sighs & deep sobs
and a part of you is titillated, aroused & likes it.

Oh Walt Whitman, you filthy bastard, going weeks
without a shave or a shower, walking to the cigarette
shop in the track pants you shagged in, and then
to the supermarket where faces turn because you
look like a beachcomber but have a credit card.

Oh Walt Whitman, you dirty bastard, coming home
with three cans of Red Bull & then spilling it on the floor,
& then licking the floor & lapping it up like a dog,
before you’re frustrated & need your porn.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2018)

Image copyright: © Nitin Lalit Murali

Protected by Copyscape


29 responses

  1. I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable,
    I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world…
    I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,
    If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.

  2. Sounds like you’re experiencing a bout, or an attack of low self-esteem, that’s why you see yourself like that, and, having a low self-esteem is never good for you…

    • You’re right again. I do have a very low self-esteem. That’s probably because I have no friends and want to earn something doing this, even though I say I don’t, but I’m stuck unemployed. I also have a lot of existential angst.

  3. this is great. i personally have this love/hate relationship with whitman, emphasis on the love and the hate since i can’t rightly put myself on one or the other–he has been such an inspiration for me, but also, well, civil war era, and i hate that there’s baggage attached.

    • Thank you very much. Personally I haven’t read much of Whitman and I’ve forgotten what I read years ago. Perhaps you can tell me why you have this love-hate relationship with him. I drew inspiration from a Ginsberg poem about him actually, and wrote a confessional of sorts. I know that Whitman played the part of the shabby poet and so that was core around which this piece revolves. But do tell me more about his life. And thank you so much!

      • nitin, thanks for asking! i love whitman for his writing style and honest expression, his openness…i have to admit, i was taken by his poetry when i was a teenager because of dead poet’s society. i have my copy of leaves if grass, bookmarked with ribbons. more recently when doing some cursory research on whitman, i discovered that he was probably just as racist as any other white man during the civil war era, in spite of his apparent love of all humans. i was saddened at that revelation because i liked to imagine old walt as this free spirit who saw and loved humanity in its entirety…

      • Thank you for the detailed response. I do have a book of his poetry, but I haven’t touched it yet. I thought he was a free spirited individual too after I read a portion of a song of myself. Reading your comment yesterday made me do it, and it had this laid back, smooth flow which echoed the semantic. But now that you’ve told me this, well, he’s definitely a bastard.

      • well, i try to keep it perspective…there are so many dead (white) poets whom we read and love because we think they’re speaking a universal truth or experience…but then we take them out of their time/place and their words invalidate our experience…it’s hard to un-see that.

      • True. Which is why post-structuralism even though I dislike it possesses some truth. But to be honest, a few black poets inspired me a lot more than the white ones – Tracy K. Smith, Natasha Trethewey and Langston Hughes.

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