I Stopped Writing the Poem

to fold the clothes. No matter who lives
or who dies, I’m still a woman.
I’ll always have plenty to do.
I bring the arms of his shirt
together. Nothing can stop
our tenderness. I’ll get back
to the poem. I’ll get back to being
a woman. But for now
there’s a shirt, a giant shirt
in my hands, and somewhere a small girl
standing next to her mother
watching to see how it’s done.



I liked this poem because it’s literal meaning is what the poem is really about.  Normally the poem says something, but you need to dig to find out the meaning.  This one I liked because the meaning is right there.  It’s only a matter of realizing what it is instead of digging and decoding the verse.


This poem says that everything is poetry.  She stopped writing the poem to fold clothes, the folding the clothes became poetry.  It became an intricate art of tenderness and womanhood.  Through this folding the shirt became a poem of its own within this poem about folding.  It’s kind of difficult to explain, but this poem makes everything poetry.


The little girl is watching her mother fold.  She watches the process and is learning how to become the woman that her mother is.  Her growth also becomes a poem itself, within the larger poem of the mundane things of life.  These mundane things take on a grandeur scale when presented in this poem. Life itself becomes poetry.  Life itself becomes art.



54 – Walt Whitman

The past and present wilt–I have fill’d them, emptied them.
And proceed to fill my next fold of the future.
Listener up there! what have you to confide to me?
Look in my face while I snuff the sidle of evening,
(Talk honestly, no one else hears you, and I stay only a minute longer.)

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

I concentrate toward them that are nigh, I wait on the door-slab.

Who has done his day’s work? who will soonest be through with his supper?
Who wishes to walk with me?

Will you speak before I am gone? will you prove already too late?

I know I’ve heard of Walt Whitman before.  I just can’t think of where.  Hm…

What drew me to this poem was the way it looks.  He says something and then has something in parenthesis.  For anyone who’s read and enjoyed John Gardner’s Grendel, this would be something you’d notice as well.

I think he’s writing this poem in the in light of some event  that caused him to think about death.  Perhaps an accident or ailment that caused him to question whether or not he would survive.  It’s interesting that the past and present is wilting since he has been filled.  I would think that if you fill something it’d be happy instead of dying.  The listener up there he speaks to I’m assuming is God, but he has no intent of dying yet because he is only speaking in passing (“I can only stay a minute longer”).  After he realizes he will live roadrunr.jpg he looks to those around him and analyzes their rush.  They’re in such a hurry to get finished with their chores and get to supper and get on with their lives, when will they pay attention to him?  When will they walk and speak with him?  Will they have the opportunity to slow down and pay attention to him before he’s gone?

Whitman is telling us that we need to take time to appreciate those around us.  We’re not sure how long they’ll be here.