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Poem-a-Day

Poem-a-Day is the original and only daily digital poetry series featuring over 250 new, previously unpublished poems by today's talented poets each year. On weekdays, poems are accompanied by exclusive commentary and audio by the poets. The series highlights classic poems on weekends. Launched in 2006, Poem-a-Day is distributed via email, web, and social media to 500,000+ readers free of charge. The series is curated by twelve poets from across the country who have wide-ranging expertise and editorial perspectives. Learn more about the 2019 guest editors and revisit the 2018 guest editors and the poems they curated. Read more about Tracy K. Smith's approach to curating April

The Wound Before the Tomb of Walt Whitman

Recorded for Poem-a-Day April 24, 2019.
About this Poem 

“Great Again. How to recover the greatness. Adjectives are circumstantial, but the nouns are chests that keep safe the essence of things, their moral dimension. What is America? This is the big question. What is the America that we want? Does a unique America like the one Whitman imagined exist? What is the great America that the slogans refer to? Is it the America of Walt Whitman or Charles Whitman? Is it the America of the person who shot a rifle from the sixth floor of the Book Depository in Dallas or the America of the one who received the bullet?”
—Fernando Valverde

The Wound Before the Tomb of Walt Whitman

Translated by Carolyn Forché

You who saw the vast oceans
and the peaks of the mountains,
who communed with all the sailors of the world
and you who saw Christ eat the bread of his last supper among the young
and the elders,
you who saw the executioner of Europe
with his ax soaked with blood,
You stepped on the scaffold
and the fields in which mothers cried to their dead children.

Tell me if it is still
possible to announce triumphant justice
and deliver the lessons of the new world.

I’m going to kiss your lips,
they are cold and taste like the word America.

Copyright © 2019 by Fernando Valverde. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 24, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2019 by Fernando Valverde. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 24, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.