Light and Sweet

by Michael Palma

How Whitman would have loved it here,
This diner on this Sunday morning.

Bright with the chrism of the rain,
He’d track pure mud across the floor,

Fleeing the houseful of strange siblings,
The soldiers pleading from stained cots,

The Captain with his shattered skull
All past his healing hands and heart.

What mouths he’d make at that mechanic,
Griefs he’d embrace in that old man.

What words he’d swap with the counterman,
Sturdy American sayings, bright with use.

Unbuttoned, hatless, large, he’d whoop
O counterman!  O comprehensive nation!

Then we would cluster round him, stirred
By his delight in the little jars

Standing at intervals along the counter,
Containing and dispersing the salt of the earth.