Susan Scheid


(with a line from Walt Whitman)

Something startles me where I thought I was the safest.
I sit in the solace and silence of my thoughts.
There are intruders here, but of what kind I cannot tell.

I am not known for my housekeeping.
Yet, my thoughts and memories feel disheveled.
I listen for the invaders to give themselves away
(perhaps I can discern a footstep or a shadow).

Are they burglars, creeping on cat feet,
rifling through my brain, upturning memories,
storage containers of words, then stealing
away in the quiet evening hours?

Or do I have an infestation of mice?
A mother who burrows and chews holes
in my mind’s gauzy fabric, shredding thoughts,
to make a patchwork nest to cradle her young?
I could almost forgive her.

What startles me most is what is missing
bits and flecks of language, memorabilia —
the world I have created
over a lifetime of ordinary days.


This poem starts with the first line of “This Compost” by Walt Whitman (May 31, 1819 – March 26, 1892), a poem that contemplates the chemistry of the Earth, that “grows such sweet things out of such corruptions.” Whitman lived in DC from 1863 to 1873; in that time he wrote Drum-Taps (1865), Democratic Vistas (1871), Passage to India (1871), and prepared two new editions of Leaves of Grass (1876, 1871). He wrote drafts of material that would eventually become the basis for his books Memoranda During the War (1875) and Specimen Days and Collect (1882). It was a prolific period: Whitman wrote almost 100 new poems and a prodigious number of journalistic essays. Whitman wrote that he considered his years in DC “the greatest privilege and satisfaction, (with all their feverish excitements and physical deprivations and lamentable sights,) and, of course, the most profound lesson of my life.”



Susan Scheid is the author of After Enchantment (CreateSpace, 2012). Her poetry has also appeared in Little Patuxent Review, The Sligo Journal, Silver Birch Press, and Tidal Basin Review, and is included in the chapbook anthology Poetic Art. Scheid serves on the Board of Directors for Split This Rock, and co-curates a monthly poetry series for Brookland Area Writers and Artists (BAWA). She lives in the Brookland neighborhood of Washington with her family and her cats.