Kelvin Holland

The Dark Seed of Walt Whitman

Project Info

  • Written by Kelvin Holland
  • Publication Black Warrior Review
  • Category Writing, Poetry

About BWR (Black Warrior Review)

Established in 1974 by graduate students in the MFA Program in Creative WritingBlack Warrior Review is named for the river that borders the campus of The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. The city, the river, and the magazine all derive their names from the 16th-century Indigenous leader Tuskaloosa (also spelled “Tushkalusa”), whose name comes from two words of Creek or Choctaw origin—tasca, meaning “warriors,” and lusa, meaning “black.” In 1540, Tuskaloosa battled the Spanish colonizer Hernando de Soto at Mabila, a fortified settlement perhaps in the vicinity of present-day Selma. Tuskaloosa was likely among the thousands who perished in the resistance effort, which is thought to have stopped the advance of de Soto’s campaign.

BWR publishes fiction, nonfiction, poetry, comics, and art twice a year. Contributors include Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winners alongside emerging writers.                                                                 

                                                                        — BWR Editorial Board


EDITOR: Glenn Mott                             MANAGING EDITOR: Dale Prince

FICTION EDITOR: Nicola Williams       POETRY EDITOR: James H.N. Martin

GRAPHIC ARTIST: Donald Baxter        PRODUCTION MANAGER: David O. Benson

ASSISTANT FICTION EDITORS: Madeline Brown, Dan Childress, Glenn J. Dwiggins, Michelle Fredette, Ellen Gandt, V.E. Link, Leigh Ann Sackrider, Ron Sielinski, Kim Trevathan

ASSISTANT POETRY EDITORS: Timothy Geiger, Jeff Hardin, Roger Scott

Alison Baker: The Kidnappee

Lisa Borders: Sarah in the Tornado

Alicia Delserone: Imagining the City

Rachel Hall: T’ai Chi

Dan Leone: You Have Chosen Cake

Tom McNeal: Murdock’s Wife

Hank Lazer: Technician of the Social: Gil Ott’s Public Domain

Walid Bitar: A Northern Reply to Vallejo’s Twilight

Joseph Chaney: Orange

Jeff Hamilton: Broken Off Correspondences 

Christopher Z. Hobson: The Burning of McCormick Place 1967

Kelvin Holland: The Dark Seed of Whitman

Boris Hristov: Solitary Man

Vladimir Levchev: Athens

Henry Jeronimo Morro: Somoza’s Teeth

Eric Pankey: Serenade

Gail Shepherd: In Theory  |  By Available Light  |  Between 20 and 20,000

Megan Simpson: Letters Following Travel

John Taggart: Star Dust  |  A Number of Times 

Diane Tierney: Sundial

Nancy White: Confection

Ekaterina Yosifova: Beneath Winter’s Roof

The Dark Seed of Whitman

By Kelvin Holland
I sing the passion electric:
I am the offspring of those
vital, athletic, and artistic women;
raised in a black womb
of survival nurtured from
the seminal white milk of your songs
I am the offspring of those
bodies electric sold by sloven
who did not know their job
half well
I am the song
hummed on slave women’s lips
stirred by the swaying of dark brimming hips
I am the melody
of 15 scores and 8 generations
of Black fallen angels
with analgesic songs
the conglomeration of notes
like bodies black stretched
over leaves of white
cotton and time
I am those
heavy shadows swinging
from trees in a broken song’s sling
in the age when Swing was king
I am those
choruses of carrion
mouths open wide
the vibrato of rope and limb
eyes spilling out to see
what they cannot find
O Father, O America, O Walt
I vomit your white heavenly
songs of these democratic states
your milk and honey
rot my teeth
and my bowels
crust and sugar over with
your songs syrupy sweet
My sin and crime:
I cannot find
content in your form
I accept the penalty
“It is better to
rule in hell
than to serve
in heaven”
So O passion
O electric Watts
Burn, Baby, Burn
till we scorch and smoke
the sun lit sky
Did you forget
O American highness
O spontaneous and naked majesty
when thou plays God
it necessitates
that you spawn
your destroyer
your anti-God
your anti-glory?
I am your Satan
Did you ever think
you were safe or free
from me
O land and home
of mom and apple …?
I will not shame
you with your nakedness
but rather
with new clothes of night
I will not kill you with fire or water
but with a syncopated song
to make your white heart
clap off beat
It is the rule
of phallic thum
that one becomes
the slave of what
one tries to master
those things you
reduce with deduction
rise, expand
and gulp you with seduction
so you red blooded American boy you
meet your
Massa Nigguh
Massa Passion
Massa Pussy
Massa Night
My hate is the hate
of a lover, it
is an unrequited
love and desire
to have you
your songs
their fruits
lying beside me
to feel your lustful clench
your love and caress
flushing through me
your body and soul, a great wind
and mine, a great flute
O Walt
it is not
that I lust for you less
but my loveless love song
makes me ache and quiver more.