Walt Whitman goes to the polls


As a rule, Poem Elf works in secret, but today I made an exception.  In broad daylight I handed the Walt Whitman election poem to campaigners outside my local precinct. I was nervous, but there was no need to be.


I had expected more crowds and more last-minute campaigning, but outside the high school where I voted, only four people, representing one amendment and one candidate, approached voters.  Just as they started their pitch (Are you voting today?/ Here, have a pen), I asked if I could give them something instead. They seemed pleasantly surprised.  Don’t know if they’ll actually read the poem, but they liked the idea that the poem celebrated our electoral process.


Once inside, I watched a woman rocking a 4-week old baby step out of line to calm her newborn.  When she got her baby to sleep (I wish I had taken a picture of that face, those pink little lips settled, the sweet eyelids relaxed), she resumed her wait to vote. “How do you like getting up at 3 in the morning?” one of the precinct workers asked her.  She smiled but her bleary eyes answered best.


Then in came an old friend, a woman of great grace and fortitude who is facing serious illness. As she waited in line, she leaned against the door at times to rest. Exhausted and in pain, she was nonetheless eager to vote on the issue most important to her.


Two beautiful women, both voting in spite of hardship.  I didn’t need Whitman’s poem to admire their resolve, but his words did make their participation in the democratic process more poignant to me.   


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