Ode to the Whitman Line “When lilacs last in the dooryard bloom'd”
I cannot consider scent without you, I cannot
think that color so gay, so Japanese, so vernal
without you; not assassination or any death in any spring. I think of you
and I am man-and-woman, flawed as a Lincoln,
welcoming as a window-box, and so tenderly alliterative as to draw one near—
at times, perhaps, to withdraw from all—yes,
without you I am without pulse in that dooryard, that blooming unfurling
so tell me finally, is last as in the last time or to make something last
—to hold, to hold you, to memorize fast—
Copyright © 2019 by Kimiko Hahn. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 12, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
About this Poem
“I love writing prompts and often make them up—if I end up with something, even a phrase, it’s more than what I had. I’d been wanting to write odes to something abstract and thought of lines of poetry that were familiar from childhood: Quoth the Raven ‘Nevermore’ ... Forward the Light Brigade ... Do I dare / Disturb the universe? I came up with about a half dozen. Months later, I was invited to participate in Whitman’s 200th birthday celebrations and wrote several using his lines. ‘When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd,’ written after Lincoln’s assassination, is a poem that always moves me.”
Kimiko Hahn was born in 1955 in Mt. Kisco, New York.
Date Published: 2019-12-12
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/ode-whitman-line-when-lilacs-last-dooryard-bloomd