Re-reading Calamus (1967)
by Richard Fein
How could I have taken so long to understand you, Walt?
How could I not have known what you were about?
How could I not have seen why poetry was not enough for you?
How could I have read you and read you and not have possessed you?
I failed to take you literally, failed to take you at your true word,
failed by taking you for democratic oracle, national prophet, hymnist
I abstracting “comerado,” “companion,” “brother,” “lover,”
abstracting “the new person drawn to me,” “the one I love,” “comrade lover,”
abstracting “Calamus taste,” “tongue aromatic,” “herbage of my breast.”
Forgive my conversions of you to professings of democracy, to escapist-ideals,
forgive my tenured life that failed to see all you were angling towards,
readying for, desired.
Oh, how removed I was from all that was amorous and fluid and pressing
in your lines,
oh, how off-base my notions about you—the evasions in my teaching, my book,
oh, Walt, I, the teacher of reading, myself never knew how to read,
oh, only now do I see that you even turned the dead Lincoln into the lost comerado,
oh, now on the edge of retirement I become free to read you truly and even see
how you in all your editions and shiftings of poems and re-writings
how you in all your selves’ effusions and obscure hintings of an unrevealed life,
how you in your kaballah-like code for the initials of a lover,
how you in all your mutations and entertainings of multitudes
were giving off signs you were afraid of yourself, of being exposed, of being
spotted behind the blinds.
So, you even misled me, as I misled myself, as you misled yourself,
so, it turns out we are closer than either of us imagined,
so, you look under my bootsoles with me and we see our lives revealed,
so, Walt, you and I are now turned into comerados, new persons drawn to
we two old men ready to accompany each other, to walk the shoreline, where
the last bubbles of spume reach our insteps
Copyright © 2018 by Richard Fein.