Walking with Walt Whitman Through Calgary's Eastside on a Winter Day

Rosemary Griebel

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Blue-white afternoon. The Bow river churns and smokes

as the city rumbles, economy chokes and bundled homeless

build cardboard homes in the snow. Yes, Walt, this is the new

world, and how often has your huge, burled form lengthened

beside me as we strode through parking lots, the filth and ice

of streets? Great seer, I listen for your relentless cheer

and barbaric yawp: Unscrew the locks from the doors! 

Unscrew the doors themselves from their jambs!

The truth here is that it is not easy to loaf and invite

the soul when you fear death from winter winds; when crystal

meth is more common than a leaf of grass. But I am learning

from you. Today, when I passed one of the broken-down men,

I barked, By God! You shall not go down! Hang your whole weight

upon me. The man looked at me as when the pain is far away,

then suddenly clear. I kept walking (a small thrill of fear)

and summoned your great capacity for wonder as I headed

into the white, blurred fields where sparrows and homeless scatter

like chaff. There I quaffed the sharp chiseled air, the slow, sad light

of merciless winter and said, yes, this world is for my mouth forever ...

And I am in love with it.

Yes.

Rosemary Griebel, “Walking with Walt Whitman Through Calgary’s Eastside on a Winter Day” from Yes. Copyright © 2011 by Rosemary Griebel. Reprinted by permission of Frontenac House.

Source: Yes. (Frontenac House, 2011)