Beth Camp Historical Fiction

Sunday, October 04, 2020

OctPoWriMo 4: Sing the Body Electric

Whitman sings the body electric,
with his rope-held blanket covering all,
but I look down like any Neolithic woman,
gnarled fingers, knobby knees,
one foot slightly larger than the other,
misdirection, deflection, imperfection,
one eye turning to the horizon
where stars shift and dreams of escape hover.
Stir the pot, make the bed, forage
in the bin for the last bit of oat,
then walk out under night’s cover alone,
under the stars, cold and shivering,
to wish I had taken a blanket
and that I kept my soul.

I remember falling in love with Whitman’s poetry and then being shocked in a literature class about the tales of Walter Whitman looking for work in Washington, D. C., wearing a blanket with a rope for a belt, leaning on some bureaucrat’s desk, wild hair flying. But tonight, I couldn't find any proof to verify that story about a shaggy blanket that Whitman supposedly used as a coat.

Walt Whitman as photographed by Mathew Brady (Wikipedia)

Whitman’s writing in “I Sing the Body Electric” (1855) is to be admired for more than his affirmation of the sacred in all human bodies, his emphasis on equality, his stand against slavery of every kind. My little poem today began with just the title of his poem and then led me to some research on Whitman. You may enjoy reading these:

This compelling biography summarizes Whitman’s life in more detail, from his childhood and working class background, to his quest to find his own voice, and his service to others during the Civil War.

Read the very famous essay, “Reminiscences of Walt Whitman,” by Whitman’s friend, John Townsend Trowbridge, published in The Atlantic in 1902.


  1. Beth you ALWAYS inspire me. You are a prolific writer, astute researcher and wonderful poet. Now you've inspired me again! I remain your fan!

    1. Thank you. Your words encourage me -- even as I can't quite come up with today's poem.

  2. Thank you for a great response..I am not familiar with Whitman's work...The neolithic woman foraging for oats in the bin makes me think of the homeless...many of whom are women...shameful world.