A Woman Waits for Me

A WOMAN waits for me, she contains all, nothing is lacking,
Yet all were lacking if sex were lacking, or if the moisture of the
right man were lacking.

Sex contains all, bodies, souls,

Meanings, proofs, purities, delicacies, results, promulgations,
Songs, commands, health, pride, the maternal mystery, the seminal
milk,
All hopes, benefactions, bestowals, all the passions, loves, beauties,
delights of the earth,
All the governments, judges, gods, follow’d persons of the earth,
These are contain’d in sex as parts of itself and justifications of
itself.
Without shame the man I like knows and avows the deliciousness
of his sex,

Without shame the woman I like knows and avows hers.

Now I will dismiss myself from impassive women,
I will go stay with her who waits for me, and with those women
that are warm-blooded and sufficient for me,
I see that they understand me and do not deny me,
I see that they are worthy of me, I will be the robust husband
of those women.
They are not one jot less than I am,
They are tann’d in the face by shining suns and blowing winds,
Their flesh has the old divine suppleness and strength,
They know how to swim, row, ride, wrestle, shoot, run, strike,
retreat, advance, resist, defend themselves,
They are ultimate in their own right—they are calm, clear, well-
possess’d of themselves.

*

“A Woman Waits for Me,” first titled “Poem of Procreation,” was published in the 1856 edition of Enfans d’Adam. By 1867, the book Enfans d’Adam became what is now known as Children of Adam. “A Woman waits for me” is a poem describing the heterosexual love-making between a man and a woman to make the perfect child.

The poem asserts every man as being equal to Adam, assisting in the creation of “perfect men and women out of [their] lovespendings.” The madness contains “all bodies, souls, meanings, proofs … the draining of, “the pent-up rivers”  into the woman “who waits for [him].”  This represents the unification of man and woman, who shall make the perfect “crops.” .These “crops” will then, “from the birth, life, death, immortality. . . ” acquire the essences of creating the perfect child.

Sexual intercourse  materializes the sperm fertilizing the seed, and the relation of the planting process for the perfect “crop.” The results of these acts creates the “new gestation.” Whitman is presenting to his readers the idea of becoming new artists and poets, while in the poem the lovers are creating this new perfect child through true sexual seed planting, “out of. . .lovespending.”

Jimmie Killingsworth writes that the pseudoscience of Phrenology may have encouraged Whitman’s “notion that human character could be “read” in a person’s physical attributes and that moral character, as well as physical traits, could be passed down from one generation to the next.” Whitman’s “A Woman Waits for Me” demonstrates his “theme of human perfectibility wove with eugenic themes.” Thus meaning the perfect offspring can only be cultivated from Adam and the unification with whichever maiden he chooses. Ed Folsom and Kenneth Price suggest that Whitman is presenting this theme in the poem through explicit sexual experiences and those reading this poem can experience an intimate experience themselves, a kind of,“sexual act of interpenetration.”

Biography and Further Reading Ed Folsom and Kenneth M. Price, Re-scripting Walt Whitman: an introduction to his life and work (2005); Jimmie M. Killingsworth, Whitman’s poetry of the body: sexuality, politics, and the text. (1989); Jimmie M. Killingsworth, “Human Body,” The Walt Whitman Archive; James E. Miller Jr., Children of Adam [1860], The Walt Whitman Archive.

Credits Composed by Melanie Murphy, Spring 2017.

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American Poetry and Poetics by Mark C. Long is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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