On, on I go, (open doors of time! open hospital doors!)That’s “The Wound-Dresser,” my favorite of today’s poems. To me it’s powerful because Whitman doesn’t change his super-heavy incantory sound to tell you This Is Important. You read a bunch of Whitman poems, and you watch him hit some long foul balls going for the home run, (“Of physiology from top to toe I sing”); and then it’s kind of arresting when you realize he’s connected. The occasion rises to Whitman, you could say:
The crush’d head I dress (poor crazed hand tear not the bandage away),
The neck of the cavalry-man with the bullet through and through I examine,
Hard the breathing rattles, quite glazed already the eye, yet life struggles hard
(Come sweet death! be persuaded O beautiful death!
In mercy come quickly).
I dress a wound in the side, deep, deep,I like the attendant here;. even in our tragic, poetic moments, prose follows us, holding the tray and pail.
But a day or two more, for see the frame all wasted and sinking,
And the yellow-blue countenance see.
I dress the perforated shoulder, the foot with the bullet-wound,
Cleanse the one with a gnawing and putrid gangrene, so sickening, so offensive,
While the attendant stands behind aside me holding the tray and pail.