I read my books until
I nearly broke their spines, and in the cotton field,
I repeated whole sections I’d learned by heart,
spelling each word in my head to make a picture
I could see, as well as a weight I could feel
in my mouth. So now, even as I write this
and think of you at home, Goodbye
is the waving map of your palm, is
a stone on my tongue.
It is said that someone once asked Tennyson for his opinion on Walt Whitman. He said: ”I do not have an opinion. I know Whitman exists, just as I know there is a whale in the sea. That is not an opinion.” However, by saying ”a whale”, there seemed to be in Tennyson’s phrase the memory of something vast, barbarous and threatening, which is quite an opinion in itself.