After Lincoln read Whitman,
The shavings from his pencil must have caught fire.
The smoke arcing up,
Sweeping out over the balcony
Beyond the heavy velvet drapes and out over the Potomac.
Maybe it was a nuisance
To be reminded of the carnal barnyard,
And Jacob wrestling with feral angels.
Or maybe it was simple, like waking up from dreaming,–
The shared tents, the Indian campaign, the naked swimming in Ice Creek
It all must have come back for a while.
The marble bust of Voltaire on the mantle,
Maybe moved a half inch or so,
Maybe even cracked a smile in the slanting afternoon light,
Like I sometimes wish Lincoln’s stoney face on that
Mountain in South Dakota would do.
Whitman had that effect on me too.