Transparent Words - Poetry

Jonathan Shaw


Reading the Australian papers with Walt Whitman on my mind, 12/12/2007

My Latin teacher, the one who once stopped in mid-sentence
when he saw a fox on the hill opposite our window
and chased us all out  of the room to see for ourselves,
would often quote Terence the stoic: 'Homo sum. Nihil
humanum mihi alienum puto.' And he said
'They did the best anyone could, those Stoics who lived before Christ.'
I don't know what Brother Gerard thought of Walt Whitman
whose psalms placed himself, not God, at the centre of things:
homo erat, and sang everything human was part of him.

My niece was a teacher, who once was stopped in mid-sentence
when a student called, 'You're a cunt, miss,' while smashing a window,
and she struggled to teach them to read, to have hope for themselves.
Would that boy be one of  the ones who've just been on trial
who pack-raped a ten year old girl? The prosecutor said
'They were just being naughty, it was generally consensual." Christ!
I don't know what that would have meant to Walt Whitman
who yawped out his blessings and, clear-eyed, called all things

              Oh, sing me no song of collusion, no hand-washing hymn.



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