Friday, April 27, 2007

Return to Earth - The Scheherazade Project

The latest topic for The Scheherazade Project challenges its participants to select a poem and turn it into prose. My selected poem of inspiration is included at the bottom of my submittal. It is long, but as with any Whitman poem, in my opinion well worth the read. Comments and criticisms welcome.

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Return to Earth

I visit this place to enjoy the peace. Walking among the stones that stand in requiem of lives and deaths. I read their names and imagine to whom they belonged - calculate their ages and strain to picture their face - struggle to remember something - anything - about them. Men and women, perhaps much like myself, remembered by no one anymore but me. Resting deep below in the cool darkness, leeching into the rich black earth to feed the new sprouts in the spring.

Tender blades of grass shoot up into the light and reach down to draw food from the dead. I run my hands over their tender tips - cool fingertips of life standing in tribute to the still fingers below. Perhaps one in the same - reaching up to touch whomever is there to remember.

A fascinating circle, a perpetually renewing cycle designed by God. Even with the finality of death, life will continue, and even begin long afterwards. New growth will cover over old loss, and in time all will appear as if it were that way all along. No seams in the blanket of green from one resting place to the next. Likewise, just as all men are equal in death despite what was done in their lives. Eventually no one remembers but the grass.

How funny for humble grass to make such a profound statement on the humility of mortality.

I will not visit the graves of those I know, partly for this very reason. Like the grass, the universe itself regards them with the same disregard - merely one with the Earth again. I hate that I alone remember that they were different. They were special.

And perhaps, I am a little jealous that they have slipped free from the chains binding them to the narrow perception of this existence. Perhaps, it makes me feel unlucky to still be here. Me and the grass, touching fingertips, and the grass touching the ones that are all but forgotten.

Do they miss me too?

Eventually I leave this place of fading remembrance. Life continues, with or without any of us. Best to get back to living while I can - I'll be back here for good soon enough.

I pluck a blade of grass and take it with me.

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A child said, What is the grass?
fetching it to me with full hands;
How could I answer the child?. . . .
I do not know what it is any more than he.
I guess it must be the flag of my disposition,
out of hopeful green stuff woven.
Or I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord,
A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropped,
Bearing the owner's name someway in the corners,
that we may see and remark, and say Whose?
Or I guess the grass is itself a child. . . .
the produced babe of the vegetation.
Or I guess it is a uniform hieroglyphic,
And it means,
Sprouting alike in broad zones and narrow zones,
Growing among black folks as among white,
Kanuck, Tuckahoe, Congressman, Cuff,
I give them the same, I receive them the same.
And now it seems to me the beautiful uncut hair of graves.
Tenderly will I use you curling grass,
It may be you transpire from the breasts of young men,
It may be if I had known them I would have loved them;
It may be you are from old people and from women, and
from offspring taken soon out of their mother's laps,
And here you are the mother's laps.
This grass is very dark to be from the white heads of old mothers,
Darker than the colorless beards of old men,
Dark to come from under the faint red roofs of mouths.
O I perceive after all so many uttering tongues!
And I perceive they do not come from the roofs of mouths
for nothing.
I wish I could translate the hints about
the dead young men and women,
And the hints about old men and mothers,
and the offspring taken soon out of their laps.
What do you think has become of the young and old men?
What do you think has become of the women and children?
They are alive and well somewhere;
The smallest sprouts show there is really no death,
And if ever there was it led forward life,
and does not wait at the end to arrest it,
And ceased the moment life appeared.
All goes onward and outward. . . .and nothing collapses,
And to die is different from what any one supposed,
and luckier.

Walt Whitman

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gypsygrrl said...


i love this. i have never read that poem before, and i love that, too... my father died 18 months ago - and as you may end up reading on my blog, i have very recently gone thru some issues with his remains. thank you for sharing this... you have helped me think a little differently about not being able to release his remains myself.

i'll be back, as well, to read more of your blog!


Shannon said...

Your poem rings so true. I visit the grave of the grandmother I never knew, yet the grandmother who was my best friend I can't bear to visit her grave. I guess because it makes it too real that she's been gone for 8 years.

Thanks for leaving me a comment! Yes, my poem is true and I'm nosy also so stop by anytime!

Lori said...

What a great idea to turn a poem into prose. This would be an excellent English assignment for older kids (not sure my IRC students are ready for it).

You write so eloquently and I love both the poem and your interpretation of it. This reminds me of what a truly gifted writer you are.

Martie said...


River Rat said...

Simply Beautiful! xoxox!

Rhonda said...

Just . . . wow. I picked a good time to end my blogging hiatus. Oh, how I have missed your stunning writing!

Bougie Black Boy said...

You always impress me with your wonderful words. Hope you are okay

A-Real-Man said...

Miss Clew I have begun writing again and I have looked at your Blog to day and seen this poem. I have never heard of this kind of thing before. I like the idea. This makes interpreting poems fun. Poetry was never fun for me before I took an English class in College. Great Post.

A Real Man