As writer/reporter Tom Ryan, author of Following Atticus and Will’s Red Coat, was losing his dear friend Vicki Pearson to cancer, he read aloud to her from her bedside the 32nd stanza of Whitman’s “Song of Myself” from Leaves of Grass:
I think I could turn and live with animals, they are so placid and self-contain’d,
I stand and look at them long and long.
They do not sweat and whine about their condition,
They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins,
They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God,
Not one is dissatisfied, not one is demented with the mania of owning things,
Not one kneels to another, nor to his kind that lived thousands of years ago,
Not one is respectable or unhappy over the whole earth.
So they show their relations to me and I accept them,
They bring me tokens of myself, they evince them plainly in their possession.
Full text of poem available here: https://whitmanarchive.org/published/LG/1891/poems/27
Ryan’s life has been one of turning from the distractions of daily life to things that silently resonate deep within the soul – things that matter more. He uses a poem by Whitman that, in many ways, foreshadows Ryan’s own turn from a heavily populated society to one of quiet solitude with his dog.
Raise a Glass to the Literary Avant-Garde by writing a “Turn From” verse, using Whitman’s line starters to create your own poem, or scroll through the linked poem and find another passage to use as line starter motivation today.
From what or where or whom do you turn?
Toward what or where or whom do you turn?
What would happen if you turned toward something new or away from something you’ve always known?
Perhaps you can imagine a future perspective or imagine the turns taken by a fictional character or superhero.
I think I could turn and Manhattan-dwell
I’d stand and watch folks buy! and sell!
They do not gather their own eggs
They do not stop for one who begs
They do not nap on front porch swings
Not one picks the crops rain brings
Not one serves biscuits with gravy
Not one offers sweet tea! Crazy!
So they swiftly move from place to place
They meet deadlines at break-neck pace
I wonder if I’d miss life on this farm
Did I jump the gun on greener-grass charm?