Amy Goodman interviews Walt Whitman at Standing Rock – a poem

inspired by the continuing actions of native peoples and allies to protect their water and sacred spaces from the Dakota Access Pipeline, poet Mark Ash imagined what Walt Whitman might have to offer

 

Doing what any true journalist ought to do …
Amy thoughtfully inquires,
“Why have you traveled so far from your crypt in Camden?”

Unable to keep from being the truth telling poet that he is ..
Whitman quotes a verse of his poetry to explain,
“I do not ask the wounded person how he feels;
I myself become the wounded person.”

Doing what any true journalist ought to do …
Amy thoughtfully inquires,
“But it can’t have been an easy journey
For a one hundred-three-year-old man
Like yourself
To travel all this way?”
Unable to keep from being the truth telling poet that he is …
Whitman quotes a verse of his poetry to explain,
“These are the days that must happen to you.”

Doing what any true journalist ought to do …

Standing Rock Monument

Standing Rock Monument

Amy thoughtfully inquires,
“Do you believe these people
Who consider themselves ‘water protectors’
Are doing the right thing?”
Unable to keep from being the truth telling poet that he is …
Whitman quotes a verse of his poetry to explain,
“Whatever satisfies the soul is truth.”

Doing what any true journalist ought to do …
Amy thoughtfully inquires,
“What do you hope to gain from your visit to Dakota?”
Unable to keep from being the truth telling poet that he is …
Whitman quotes a verse of his poetry to explain,
“I discover myself on the verge of a usual mistake.”

Doing what any true journalist ought to do …
Amy thoughtfully inquires,
“Have you offered these ‘water protectors’ any advice?”
Unable to keep from being the truth telling poet that he is …
Whitman quotes a verse of his poetry to explain,
“Resist much, obey little.”

Doing what any true journalist ought to do …
Amy thoughtfully inquires,
“And what would you have to say
To these ‘armed to the teeth’ enforcers
And their dogs
Who have been brought in by the oil companies?”
Unable to keep from being the truth telling poet that he is …
Whitman quotes a verse of his poetry to explain,
“Be curious, not judgmental.”

Doing what any true journalist ought to do …
Amy thoughtfully inquires,
“How will you decide if this trip to the prairie was worth the investment?”
Unable to keep from being the truth telling poet that he is …
Whitman quotes a verse of his poetry to explain,
“I have learned that to be with those I like is enough”

Doing what any true journalist ought to do …
Amy thoughtfully concludes,
“Thank you for finding time to talk with us.
Where do you go from here?”
Unable to keep from being the truth telling poet that he is …
Whitman quotes a verse of his poetry to explain,
“Afoot and lighthearted I take to the open road, healthy, free, the world before me.”

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3 Comments
  1. Vicki Zurlage

    Mark gives us a true glimpse into what it means to have compassion, to “become the wounded person.” Henri Nouwen says we must not just hope for better from afar, but “become those for whom we pray.” Those who support the pipeline opposition need for us to become them, leaving all judgment behind. Being in solitude can, as Mark points out, satisfy our souls with the truth.

  2. Bruce Noll

    Nice prose poem. However since Walt was born in 1819 he would today be 197 years old.

  3. Mark Ash

    Good catch, Bruce.

    *

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