The Wisdom of the First Lady

” I wake up every morning in a house built by slaves.” —Michelle Obama


“Shut not your doors to me proud libraries,

For that which was lacking on all your well-fill’d shelves.

yet needed most, I bring,

Forth from the war emerging, a book I have made,

The words of my book nothing, the drift of it every thing,

A book separate, not link’d with the rest felt by the intellect,

But you ye untold latencies will thrill to every page.”

—Walt Whitman




There isn’t much more to be said here except that we can listen to the wise words here and work to change our world from what it is today, to the visions that others like Michelle Obama see. We can make the American dream work again and we don’t need to exclude other people or be racists, or haters. We can build America up again with compassion, gentleness, helping, sharing and caring about each other.




Poetry for a Cloudy Day

It was one of those days that you get in Autumn where it’s crisp and gloomy, with amazingly beautiful cloud formations, and for me these days have always been wonderful days for making art and reading poetry.
I did make art today, and I also read poetry.  My favorite non-feminist poet is Walt Whitman, so he and I shared a portion of the afternoon in Leaves of Grass.  I thought I would share some of his beautiful wordcraft with you.  I hope you enjoy it.


As Consequent (Etc.)

–Walt Whitman

As consequent from store of summer rains,

Or wayward rivulets in autumn flowing,

Or many a herb-lined brook’s reticulations,

Or subterranean sea-rills making for the sea,

Songs of continued years I sing.

Life’s ever-modern rapids first, (soon, soon to blend,

With the old streams of death.)

Some threading Ohio’s farm-fields or the woods,

Some down Colorado’s canons from sources of perpetual snow,

Some half-hid in Oregon, or away southward in Texas,

Some in the north finding their way to Erie, Niagara, Ottawa,

Some to Atlantica’s bays, and so the great salt brine.

In you whoe’er you are my book perusing

In I myself, in all the world, these currents flowing,

All, all toward the mystic ocean tending.

Currents for starting a continent new,

Overtures sent to the solid out of the liquid,

Fusion of ocean and land, tender and pensive waves,

(Not safe and peaceful only, waves rous’d and ominous too,

Out of the depths the storm’s abysmic waves, who knows whence?

Raging over the vast, with many a broken spar and tatter’d sail.)

Or from the seat of Time, collecting vasting all, I bring,

A window-drift of weeds and shells.

O little shells, so curious-convolute, so limpid-cold and voiceless,

Will you not little shells to the tympans of temples held,

Murmurs and echoes still call up, eternity’s music faint and far,

Wafted inland, sent from Atlantica’s rim, strains for the soul of the prairies

Whisper’d reverbertations, chords for the ear of the West joyously sounding,

Your tidings old, yet ever new and untranslatable,

Infinitesimals out of my life, and many a life,

(For not my life and years along I give — all, all I give,)

These waifs from the deep, cast high and dry,

Wash’d on America’s shores?


Autumn blooming Clematis grown by Barbara Mattio. Photograph and copyright by Barbara Mattio 2004

Autumn blooming Clematis grown by Barbara Mattio. Photograph and copyright by Barbara Mattio 2004

Poets to Come

Photograph by Barbara Mattio

Photograph by Barbara Mattio

                                                                                                                                   Copyrighted 2012, Great Smoky Mountains



Poets to come! orators, singers, musicians to come!

Not to-day is to justify me and answer what I am for,

But you, a new brood, native, athletic, continental, greater than

before known,

Arouse! for you must justify me.


I myself but write one or two indicative words for the future,

I but advance a moment only to wheel and hurry back in the



I am a man who, sauntering along without fully stopping, turns a

casual look upon you and then averts his face.

leaving it to you to prove and define it,

Expecting the main things from you.             — Walt Whitman, Laws of Creation



Walt Whitman is one of Americas greatest poets. He had a way of connecting to people as he traveled America. Just as he connected to his peers as he moved from area to area and from experience to experience, he connects us to him and to all he met and wrote about. His poems have a strength of love and a commitment to seeing the goodness in people. This is a gift and one we don’t always see in this twenty-first century.





To a Stranger


Passing stranger! you do not know how longingly

I look upon you,

You must be he I was seeking, or she I was seeking, ( it comes to me as of a dream,)

I have somewhere surely lived a life of joy with you,

All is recall’d  as we flit by each other, fluid, affectionate, chaste,


You grew up with me, were a boy with me or a girl with me,

I ate with you and slept with you, your body has become not yours only nor

left my body mine only,

You give me the pleasure of your eyes, face, flash, as we pass, you take of my beard, breast

hands, in return,

I am not to speak to you, I am to think of you when I sit alone or wake at night alone,

I am to wait, I do not doubt I am to meet you again,

I am to see to it that I do not lose you.”     —-Walt Whitman, Laws for Creation



I think Whitman was an original man. There has never been another like him. There have been American poets who loved nature and who dedicated poems to the joy of nature, but Walt Whitman had a way of seeing nature that was unique.  He also had a way of describing war when he was a volunteer nurse in the Civil War. His ability to look into people’s souls and to access their souls was extraordinary. Poetry was his medium and he has left us a treasure trove of his rhythm and his way of looking at life. He was a man who often traveled alone; he was outside of his society in many ways, separate from us, but he has never left us. His words will keep him alive for many centuries to come.


Redwood trees on the West Coast

Redwood trees on the West Coast





                                                                                                                        Whitman walked along the roads and byways                            

                                                                                                                         and wrote the words that have  preserved

                                                                                                                         the feel of a younger America.
















Song of the Open Road


Song of the Open Road


Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road,

Health, free, the world before me,

The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose.


Henceforth I ask not good-fortune, I myself am good-fortune,

Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing, Done with indoor complaints, libraries, querulous criticisms,

Strong and content I travel the open road.


The earth, that is sufficient,

I do not want the constellations any nearer,

I know they are very well where they are,

I know they suffice for those who belong to them.


(Still here I carry my old delicious burdens,

I carry them, men and women, I carry them with me wherever I go,

I swear it is impossible for me to get rid of them,

I am fill’d with them, and I will fill them in return.)


You air that serves me with breath to speak!

You objects that call from diffusion my meanings

and give them shape!

You light that wraps me and all things in delicate equable showers!

You light that wraps me and all things in delicate equable showers!

You paths worn in the irregular hollows by the roadsides!

I believe you are latent with unseen existences, you are so dear to me.


All seems beautiful to me,

I can repeat over to men and women, You have done such good to me

I can repeat over to men and women,

I will recruit for myself and you as I go,

I will scatter myself among men and women as I go,

I will toss a new gladness and roughness among them,

Whoever denies me it shall not trouble me,

Whoever accepts me he or she shall be blessed and shall bless me.   —excerpted from Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass



Acrylic painting of courtyard in the French Quarter. Painted and copyrighted 2009

Acrylic painting of courtyard in the French Quarter. Painted and copyrighted 2009 by Barbara Mattio









The Bahamas. Photograph taken and copyrighted 2013

The Bahamas. Photograph taken and copyrighted 2013














The Poetic Truth

Open hearts and open minds are what the people need

Open hearts and open minds are what the people need

I Sit and Look Out

“I sit and look out upon all the sorrows of the world.

and upon all oppression and shame,

I hear secret convulsive sobs from young men at anguish with themselves,

remorseful after deeds done,

I see in low life the mother misused by  her children, dying, neglected,

gaunt, desperate,

I see the wife misused by her husband, I see the treacherous seducer of young women,

I mark the ranklings of jealousy and unrequited love attempted to be hid,

I see the working of battle, pestilence, tyranny, I see martyrs and prisoners,

I observe a famine at sea, I observe the sailors casting lots

who shall be kill’d to preserve the lives of the rest,

I observe the slights and degradations cast by arrogant persons

upon laborers, the poor, and upon negroes, and the like,

All these–all the meanness and agony without end I sitting look our upon,

See, hear, and am silent.”

—–Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass




Come, said my Soul,

Such verses for my Body let us write, (for we are one).

That should I after death invisibly return,

Or, long, long hence, in other spheres,

There to some group of mates the chants resuming,

(Tallying Earth’s soil, trees, winds, tumultuous waves,)

Ever with pleas’d smile I may keep on,

Ever and ever yet the owning—as, first, I here and now,

Singing for Soul and Body, set to them my name,

Walt Whitman

The earth is filled with the love from the Divine

The earth is filled with the love from the Divine


“Of Justice—as if Justice could be any thing but the same ample law,

expounded by natural judges and saviors,

As if it might be this thing or that thing, according to decisions.”

—–Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

Animals, birds, and humans all love the Penninsula

Animals, birds, and humans all love the  Peninsula

 Photograph taken and copyrighted in 2009 by Barbara Mattio

The first edition of Leaves of Grass took various forms during the poet’s lifetime. In 1855, the first edition was a thin book with twelve poems.The final edition was published containing more than three hundred. I have the “Deathbed” edition and I can’t tell you how his words soothe and relax me. As an artist, a poet, Mr. Whitman wrote poems that remain an American classic.Whitman died in March 26, 1892. In my opinion, there were several American poets who have taken American life and raised it to a treasure. Robert Frost, Longfellow, Thoreau all took American poetry and gave it to the people.

Hydrangea. Photo taken and copyrighted in 2012 by Barbara Mattio

Hydrangea. Photo taken and copyrighted in 2012 by Barbara Mattio


Thoughts on Twilight

Twilight at Holden Beach. One last romp with the waves. Photograply copywrighted by Barbara Mattio 2013

Twilight at Holden Beach. One last romp with the waves. Photography copyrighted by Barbara Mattio 2013

I find, that for me, there is a moment, one pure, crystalline moment when the day begins to fade and the night begins to wrap its arms around you, that brings the bitter sweetness pain and love.  I don’t know why it happens. I have experienced it since I was a child. There are times that this moment brings tears to my eyes. Not sad or happy tears. I believe they are the tears of knowing that in those precious seconds, you live.

Twilight reminds us of our invisible and silken thread which connects us to the Universe. The air smells pure. You take a breath and know that all that matters is the fact you are alive and you are in every living thing on this planet and they are all in you. You might be sitting on a porch, walking along a beach, standing breathing the mountain air or driving along a highway,  but this moment will flutter your heart. You are alive.

Shakespeare was the English bard and controversy not withstanding, he moves us as few others ever have . He was an expert in the craft of words. He crafted them for the common people and for Kings and Queens. For me there is an American bard. It Is Walt Whitman. While I don’t write poetry I love to read it and Whitman is my default poet when my heart and soul truly needs comfort.
I hope you will enjoy these selections as much as I do.

A Twilight Song

As I sit in twilight late alone by the flickering oak flame,
Musing on long-pass’d war-scenes–of the countless buried unknown soldiers,
Of the vacant names, as unindented air’s and sea’s–the unreturn’d,
The brief truce after battle, with grim burial-squads, and the deep-fill’d trenches
Of gather‘d dead from all America, North, South East, West, whence they came up,
From wooded Maine, New England’s farms, from fertile Pennsylvania, Illinois, Ohio,
From the measureless West, Virginia, the South, the Carolinas, Texas,
(even here in my room-shadows and half-lights in the noiseless flickering flames,
Again I see the stalwart ranks on-filing, rising—–
I hear the rhythmic tramp of the armies;)
You million unwrit names all, all-you dark bequest from all the war,
A special verse for you–a flash of duty long neglected–
your mystic roll strangely gather‘d here,
Each name recall‘d by me from out the darkness and death’s ashes,
Henceforth to, deep,deep within my heart recording, for many a future year,
Your mystic roll entire of unknown names, or North or South,
Embalm’d with love in this twilight song.:

—Walt Whitman

“Come, said my Soul,
Such verses for my Body let us write (for we are one)
That should I after death invisibly return,
Or, long, long hence, in other spheres, There to some group of mates the chanting resuming,
(Tallying Earth’s soil, trees, winds, and tumultuous waves,)
Ever with pleas’d smile I may keep on,
Ever and ever yet the verses owning–as, first, I here and now,
Signing for Soul and Body, set to them my name.
Walt Whitman

The beach at twilight. Photgraph copyrighted by Barbara Mattio

The beach at twilight. Photgraph copyrighted by Barbara Mattio


Blue Ridge Mountain twilight. Photograph copyrighted by Barbara Mattio

Blue Ridge Mountain twilight. Photograph copyrighted by Barbara Mattio


Seven Sisters Mountain twilight, Black Mountain.Photograph copyrighted by Barbara Mattio

Seven Sisters Mountain twilight, Black Mountain.
Photograph copyrighted by Barbara Mattio

Creation by Walt Whitman

The beauty of Creation

The beauty of Creation

Laws For Creation

“Laws for creations,
For strong artists and leaders, for fresh broods of teachers and
perfect literats for America,
For noble savans and crooning musicians.

All must have reference to the ensemble of the world, and the compact truth of the world,
There shall be no subject too pronounced–all works shall
Illustrate the divine law of indirections.

What do you suppose creation is?
What do you suppose will satisfy the soul, except to walk free
and own no superior?
What do you suppose I would intimate to you in a hundred
ways, but that man or woman is as good as God?
And that there is no God any more divine than Yourself?
And that that is what the oldest and newest myths finally mean?
And that you or any one must approach creations through such laws?”

——Walt Whitman, Laws for Creation

I found that I am so upset that I had to rely on Whitman’s words because mine  must not leave my lips. Not only was another child shot but there wasn’t hardly any news coverage. I guess the story didn’t bleed enough. It is just so wrong. I felt Whitman only could say the right words.

We must stop the shooting and the violence

We must stop the shooting and the violence

For Our Mother Earth

amazing dolfins

“I swear the earth shall surely be complete to him or her who shall be complete,
The earth remains jagged and broken only to him or her who remains jagged and broken.
I swear there is no greatness or power that does not emulate those of the earth,
There can be no theory of any account unless it corroborate the theory of the earth,
No politics, song, religion, behavior or what not,
Is of account, unless it compare with the amplitude of the earth,
Unless it face the exactness, vitality, impartiality, the rectitude of the earth.”
—–Walt Whitman


I Hear America Sing

Colin Powell speaks for President Obama

Four More Years

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,

Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong,

The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,

The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work,

The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck,

The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands,

The wood-cutter’s song, the ploughboy’s on his way in the morning, or at noon intermission or at sundown.

The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or  of the girl sewing or washing,

Each singing what belongs to the day-at night the party of young fellows, robust, friendly,

Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.

                                                                                                             —Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman (1819-1892) wrote in long, loose lines. Whitman introduced to American poetry a democratic, all-encompassing vision and a freedom of style that liberated the form from its traditional constraints.

Whitman was a man of the people. He wasn’t rich and he wandered around our great country meeting the everyday man and woman. He found solace and inspiration in the lives of the 99%. They weren’t called that then, but these days we are. These days we have the 99% and the 1 %. Most of us are part of the 99% and we care about each other, whether we have met or not. We know they are our sisters and brothers. We don’t all look alike, We don’t all speak English well. We don’t all believe in the same issues. What we all are is Americans proud of our country and where we are going. On this election day, I Hear Americans Sing and they vote.

Gloria Steinam for Obama

Coretta Scott King speaks for President Obama

Vote for Hope

Ladies, our ancestors worked hard for us to have the vote. Please go out and stand in line and vote.

In America, every citizen has the right to vote. Citizens of other countries, cannot all say that. Don’t take the vote for granted.