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The usual fusilades

Walt Whitman, from Specimen Days:


July 4th.—The weather to-day, upon the whole, is very fine, warm, but from a smart rain last night, fresh enough, and no dust, which is a great relief for this city. I saw the parade about noon, Pennsylvania avenue, from Fifteenth street down toward the capitol. There were three regiments of infantry, (I suppose the old ones doing patrol duty here,) two or three societies of Odd Fellows, a lot of children in barouches, and a squad of policemen. (A useless imposition upon the soldiers—they have work enough on their backs without piling the like of this.) As I went down the Avenue, saw a big flaring placard on the bulletin board of a newspaper office, announcing “Glorious Victory for the Union Army!” Meade had fought Lee at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, yesterday and day before, and repuls’d him most signally, taken 3,000 prisoners, &c. (I afterwards saw Meade’s despatch, very modest, and a sort of order of the day from the President himself, quite religious, giving thanks to the Supreme, and calling on the people to do the same.) I walk’d on to Armory hospital—took along with me several bottles of blackberry and cherry syrup, good and strong, but innocent. Went through several of the wards, announc’d to the soldiers the news from Meade, and gave them all a good drink of the syrups with ice water, quite refreshing—prepar’d it all myself, and serv’d it around. Meanwhile the Washington bells are ringing their sundown peals for Fourth of July, and the usual fusilades of boys’ pistols, crackers, and guns.



I want to solicit advice from you people who read the comments. Last night in AR, my cousin’s husband shot himself; if he hasn’t yet died, he will very soon. I didn’t know him well; they were in the middle of a divorce, in fact, and from what I’ve gathered, they were arguing last night and he was threatening something or other—whether to hurt her or himself I don’t know. To make it worse, they have a daughter. Frustrating it all is that I’m in IA; I can’t go home to be there, not right away, anyway—though, perhaps, later in the summer or early autumn. We’ll send flowers and cards, of course, but these are small condolences. Have you ever been through anything like this? I’m feeling mostly just helpless, which makes sense since I am helpless, but what am I not thinking of that I could do, do you think?

I think a heartfelt card, flowers, and perhaps a phone call will be fine. It has to be fine. If you can’t go right now, you just can’t go.

Will reply via e-mail, soon.

2: You’re right, JH. There’s much to be gained in knowing when to admit helplessness. We’ll do what we can, all the while aware of how little it is, and trust in the fact that the massive amounts of family that’s there will be there to make a difference. (Fingers crossed they don’t make things worse—not a hard thing to imagine given that bunch, but perhaps they’ll be better than that….)

3: Thanks, L.