Now What

I was pleased and honored to be invited to write a poem around the theme “Beyond the Voting Booth” for Anythink Libraries Civic Saturday. Writing a poem on this topic was beyond difficult; no one likes a preachy poet. In the end, I kept coming back to Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, so eventually I invited Whitman’s words to thread through my own (less perfect) ones. His words are the italicized lines below. And I decided to add hyperlinks to each of my original lines; these links are meant not as an endorsement or final word on any subject, but are simply some of the links I visited while spending a week trying to get at the question, “what does it mean to be a citizen?”

In my story, I was a white woman asking now what?
This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals

What does it mean to be an American?
despise riches, give alms to everyone that asks

Loving our neighbors isn’t one of our founding tenants.
stand up for the stupid and crazy

Here I stayed silent when I should have spoken, here I spoke when I should have shut up.
devote your income and labor to others

My ancestors stole this land.
hate tyrants, argue not concerning God

I say yes to it.
have patience and indulgence toward the people

I let the shame of it sit till it lifts me out of it.
take off your hat to nothing known or unknown

I seek the stories of those different from me and those the same
go freely with powerful uneducated persons

to find that no one is the same as me and no one is different
and with the young, and with the mothers of families

I find out where my orange juice comes from.
re-examine all you have been told in school or church or in any book

I drink the 5-hour empathy.
and dismiss whatever insults your own soul

I remember it was love that made me.
I will accept nothing which all cannot have

And though the earth is burning under my feet,
All truths wait in all things

and the rivers have burst to flame,
every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you

the sunset behind the mountains
is a spool of gold unraveling.

Clear and sweet is my soul,
and clear and sweet is all that is not my soul

If we are driving west into darkness,
let us love each other while we travel.


  1. rsbo1 says:

    I like the poem. Where did you read ? I wish i could write like you. I would enjoy $600 to write and read a poem!Tom had asked Kenny and Margaret to come over to watch the Carolina -N.C. State game today .They got here at 11:30 and i wasn’t sure if the reading was at 11:30 our time or yours . I was going to look on the blog. Thanks for sending it to me. The game started at 12:00. I made lunch.  Its in the 4th quarter now . Carolina is winning 48 to 21. Margaret look left to run some errands. Sometime i will tell you that story  i mentioned.  I love and miss you.Sent from my U.S.Cellular© Smartphone


  2. Linda Palladino says:

    Kim, that is such a beautiful and heartfelt poem❤️I imagine that it WAS challenging to write, but I have to say that you captured many of the feelings many of us are having right now! You have a gift with words….thank you for sharing it. Now that I have read it several times, I will go back and click the hyperlinks….it will be interesting to see the path you took to get to the piece you produced! Xxoo we love you and miss you

    Sent from my iPhone



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