Prompt: Checking Walt Whitman’s Watch

I have been thinking of Walt Whitman all day and how much I miss that dear, bearded, crazy mess of a man. Who, I like to imagine, hugged everyone he met with the same tearful exuberance I feel seeing a sandhill crane open and close its wings. Through his poetry, he enfolds us in his embrace, his words, his song and then releases us into the air.

But of course Walt left the party before I ever had the chance to meet him. And what did he leave behind anyway? Leaves of grass, songs hummed to himself, a wristwatch to count the hours we might look for God as we sit on the boardwalk, sipping iced tea?

Why just today, I found a letter he sent lying in the street. My address smudged. It was sent in care of Walt, signed “Love, God.”

Who did he think he was fooling? It is so clearly his handwriting even if (he says) he was taking dictation.

Here is what it said:

Why should I wish to see God better than this day?

I see something of God in each hour of the twenty-four, and each

moment then,

In the faces of men and women I see God, and in my own face in

the glass;

I find letters from God dropped in the street, and every one is

signed by God’s name,

And I leave them where they are, for I know that others will

punctually come forever and ever.”

–Walt Whitman, from “Song of Myself”

An SASE is included. He is waiting for a reply.

I love Whitman’s idea of seeing “something of God in each hour of the twenty-four.” A couple weeks ago the prompt “Overheard Inspiration” was to be someone on whom nothing is lost. This week let’s take it a step further.

Prompt: For one day, pause each hour you are awake and watch for wherever there is a stirring for you. You may call that stirring something divine or not, but it should be an action or an image or a scent that holds your attention that points to More. Put words to it. Only a line or two and then post it here.

I am excited to hear what will happen on your watch.

IMAGE: Walt Whitman, ca.1860-1865 by Matthew Brady. Series: Mathew Brady Photographs of Civil War-Era Personalities and Scenes, compiled 1921 – 1940, documenting the period 1860 – 1865
Currently housed at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland.

About the Keeping the Appointment Challenge! Check in each week, grab the prompt and go. New prompts will be posted on Tuesday. Find a quiet place and write in response to the prompt for 15-30 minutes. Only after you have something on paper, take a look or a listen to other examples if you like. Wait a day or three and reread what you wrote. Revise for 30 minutes or so. If you want, post what you wrote. We would love to see it–and we promise to keep our own editing selves to our selves! In other words, this blog is a place to share your work, not to “fix” the work of others. We receive it with the open, generous mind of a fellow-writer and reader. Comments are welcome as are words of thanks.


  1. friendmarcelle

    Back in the flow of writing!
    Light through the window, green-yellow leaves fluttering
    Conversation with a friend who doesn’t mind I called a week early
    A colorful meal, with a long view.
    A knotty problem untangled.
    A surprisingly warm spot, where the afternoon sun has been resting.
    Letting go, I’m held up by God.
    Raking leaves. Cold hands, warm heart.
    Burying chard plants in golden leaves will keep them warm all winter.
    Bright green broccoli and yellow dahl on rice!
    The young man speaks five languages and has braids at the ends of his wool cap.
    Children waving palms and singing hosanna. Jesus smiles.
    The leader of the climate change delegation from the Philippines weeps.
    Hungry for what I shouldn’t eat. Itching, I resist tonight.
    Ear blocked. What am I not hearing?
    Careful. May I pay close attention. Clear again.
    Still awake. Finishing today’s dispatches from God.

      • Jonathan Graham

        One side of a phone call
        overheard in the public library

        Did you get paid?
        Does anyone else know you got paid?
        Then listening, adds,
        Like, “I told you so,” adds
        That’s what roommates do.

        The worst thing is, I get the shakes, he says
        Because I don’t sleep
        I don’t have any place to sleep
        There is no place I can sleep
        You know I don’t have money for a motel.

        He listens for a long time then asks
        What do we really need for the house
        Other than a microwave?
        He asks this three times
        but the person on the other end expects more.

        What kind of furniture?
        The caller wants to know

        We’ll all be in the one room? he asks
        That’s a little weird
        All I have to say is better not be shy
        better not be shy
        better not be shy

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