THE ACM ARCHIVE: Kathleen Rooney

from ACM 48

For You, For You I Am Trilling These Songs

by Kathleen Rooney


All the world loves a parade, and I am the girl in charge of ours.

I want to live in Whitman’s America. I want my America “still all in the making.” I want it “a promise, a possible something.” I want it “an idea, a forecast, a prophecy.”

Instead, I live in Orwell’s world. Where “people are imprisoned for years without trial,” and “The words democracy, socialism, freedom, patriotic, realistic, justice have each of them several different meanings which cannot be reconciled.” Where “swindles and perversions” abound. Where “political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible.”

They say that Nero fiddled while Rome burned. I placed an online order for kazoos while Iraq did. Nero was an emperor. I was a Senate Aide.

I’d been assigned the task of getting our supplies in order for a politician’s most important parade date: the 4th of July. Independence Day.

The Declaration of Independence says, “And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.”

That summer, the summer of 2006, I’d pledged my fortune to working as the Assistant Internship Coordinator in the Chicago office of Richard J. Durbin, D-IL.

That morning, I’d learned from the Chicago Tribune that the day I purchased several dozen two-tone red-and-brass kazoos with threaded caps, replaceable resonators, and deluxe tuning was the same day that “a surge of bombings ripped across [Baghdad] and its surrounding provinces killing at least 40 people.” Among the dead were the two-man crew of CBS television news correspondent Kimberly Dozier, along with their Iraqi translator and an American soldier.

Ghastly attacks. But what could I do except bracket that, and point and click? Enter the Chief of Staff’s credit card number? Make sure the instruments arrived in plenty of time? Printing out the receipt from Kazoobie, Inc., I stared at the Chief of Staff’s platinum Visa and wondered out loud how the fuck I’d gotten there.



* * *

The answer had to do with the fact that I was in the process of making one of the slowest overland, transcontinental journeys since the Oregon Trail.

My husband is a novelist, aspiring but good, and because of his goodness, we’d been living in an artists’ colony at a windswept, desolate end of the earth: Provincetown, Massachusetts, in the off-season, when the resort village shrinks from its summer swell of 60,000 to just 3,500. Lighthouses. Whales. The Atlantic Ocean. Recluses. Drunks. Gay people. Fisherman. Artists. Writers. Their significant others. My husband was a Fine Arts Work Center Winter Fellow. I shared his bed there. I was a Bed Fellow.

We’d been planning to remain for one more year, but I’d applied for a teaching job at a small religious university in Washington state, and the offer they’d made we couldn’t refuse. The fellowship ended the first day of May and the professorship didn’t start until the last days of August.

* * *

So there I was. Back. Working in Chicago. Haunting the suburban town I grew up in like a ghost. I was going west. Manifesting my destiny. In the meantime, I was going a route that is apparently de rigeur among restless twentysomethings everywhere: living with my parents and trying to save money.

I had been an intern myself at the age of 19, then a Senate Aide at 20, before I went off to Oxford University, deciding there, dramatically—because I could! I was so young!—that I was actually a Poet and always would be. I changed my Poli Sci major to English, and put all the petty business of politics behind me.

Of course I hadn’t, really. The seven years since last I’d worked for the federal government had seemed a second coming of what Gerald Ford termed a “long national nightmare.” And though I’d been living in DC during the 9/11 attacks, had marched in 2003 against so-called Operation Iraqi Freedom, and had phone-banked for the Democrats during the heartbreaking 2004 elections, I didn’t really see what else I could do to Save the World, to Make a Difference.

Then, staring down the long cold barrel of a long hot summer spent broke in the suburbs, I emailed the Chief of Staff to see if he might have anything for me in between these bouts of more permanent gainful employment. I wanted, if at all possible, a job that was value-expressive—anything more meaningful than temping, retail, or waitressing.

He had me ride the train downtown, to meet him, to do lunch, and by the time we were done, I had a summer gig.

“It will be so lovely to have you back,” the Chief of Staff told me in a basement cafeteria. “Our current Intern Coordinator can’t wrangle all the interns by herself,” he added, “and a lot of them can’t write the way we need them to. They’re college educated, some of them with law degrees, and they can’t string together a sentence to save their lives.”

That, I was told, would be my main mission. I was so excited, so grateful, that I couldn’t even finish my salad. I chose to accept it. “O Democracy, to serve you ma femme!”

* * *

The mid-May morning I arrived, the elliptical wooden table in the airy glass conference room was ringed with sixteen 18-22 year old faces, most of them substantially less bright-looking than the sun as it glinted on Lake Michigan thirty-eight stories below. Camille, the Intern Coordinator whom I was officially to Assist, looked somewhat brighter, but completely scattered, disorganized, refracted in a thousand directions, like the light off the water.

I could tell I didn’t fit in. And it was not just the fact that I wasn’t wearing a suit (though part of the appeal of the life path I’d been on so far—poet and professor—was that I never really had to). It had to do with my obvious ambition and enthusiasm. I was temporary, yes, but I did not view this as merely a line on a c.v. or a task to be gotten through, which was more than I would soon be able to say about this crew.

My start date was the same as that of this first batch of interns, and I was as clueless as they were, though I had to fake like I was not. I had to act like the permanent staffers, though all of them clearly knew I was not one of their number either.

I jotted notes on my hand—what I most had to remember. This would come to drive the Chief of Staff up a tree.

“Kathleen, goddammit” he would say, “Why don’t you use Post-Its like a normal human being?”

What he didn’t understand was that this was the only way I could have ready answers to the questions the interns were most likely to ask. I’d have loved for them to demand that I hold forth on political writing and the uses of metaphor, but instead the answers they needed included: “The number to open the voicemail? Why sure, it’s this,” and “How do you get in the back door when the front one’s locked? With this handy code…” and “The password for that computer? Easy, it’s…”

I did not feel like a fish out of water exactly. And I was not a big fish in a small pond, or a small fish in a big one. I was more like something else that didn’t fully belong anywhere. A bird in a pond, maybe.

The summer internships were to be divided in half, into two sessions, imaginatively named Summer Session I and Summer Session II. The only time both cohorts would overlap was at the 4th of July parades, and I was to officiate at this passing of the torch.

For the moment, though, the SSI crew was entirely too large—an absurd sixteen interns for just ten staffers. As we played juvenile icebreaker games (pick a Starburst! Answer the canned question that corresponds to your color!), they revealed that they possessed the added disadvantage of being the most socially and professionally maladjusted group of people I had seen assembled together in one place under the aegis of elitism in my entire life.

If you selected a red Starburst, you had to name the country you’d most like to visit. “I’ve already been everywhere I want to go, so I guess I’d say, ummm…go back to Italy?” said one. If you selected an orange Starburst, you had to describe the most annoying co-worker you’d ever had to deal with. “I’ve never really, like, worked before, so I can’t really answer that one,” said another. Still another, in response to the orange Starburst prompt, regaled us with a story of working in a gas station with “the meanest butch lesbian on God’s green earth,” the rest of which was too firmly in the category of Questionable Taste for anyone in her right mind to repeat in polite company.

There has always been some nepotism involved in the filling of political positions. I myself had had an in, back in 1999, because an uncle of mine had worked for the late, esteemed, bow-tied Senator Paul Simon, Durbin’s predecessor. I tried to keep this in mind as I met and greeted the members of Summer Session I, but their being there at all was nepo-tastic, out of control. Through a misunderstanding on Camille’s part—you don’t have to accept everyone, just because some staffer happens to know their mother’s cousin’s best friend’s hairdresser—they were almost all hired for their (often tenuous) connections, and not for their abilities.

As when I’d been there last as a Senate Aide, some of the young charges came from upstate, some from down, and a lot came, like I did, from the comfortable middle-class obscurity of the Western suburbs. Some came from privilege, some from poverty, but what was evident almost immediately among Summer Session I was that all of them lacked a) manners and b) verbal skills.

* * *

In “To a Western Boy,” Whitman writes:

Many things to absorb I teach to help you become eleve of mine; Yet if blood like mine circle not in your veins, If you be not silently selected by lovers and do not silently select lovers,

of what use is it that you seek to become an eleve of mine?

These interns did not want to become eleves of mine. As far as I could tell, they loved little about their positions. They had few passions. But, since it was my job, I did my best anyway.

I wanted to feel awake and alive and I wanted to awaken and enliven them. I could tell, though, that they were suspicious of my background, my teacherhood; they did not understand why I was going to make them read, to take them on field trips, to make them write and write and write and write. To be honest, I think much of the staff shared their suspicion.

Orwell writes: “Modern English, especially written English, is full of bad habits which spread by imitation and which can be avoided if one is willing to take the necessary trouble. If one gets rid of these habits one can think more clearly, and to think clearly is a necessary first step toward political regeneration: so that the fight against bad English is not frivolous and is not the exclusive concern of professional writers.” This fight was how (benightedly in hindsight?) I imagined my job.

The Chief of Staff, I knew, agreed with me; the interns acted like I was giving them busywork, and the rest of the staff felt like I was wasting everyone’s time. Why make the interns read Foucault, read Lakoff, read de Tocqueville, when all they really had to do was alphabetize the files and answer the telephones (tasks which they tackled with the maximum amount of bitching and moaning and the minimum level of speed and competency)?

Orwell’s first rule for the improvement of political language states, “(i) Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.” If I were to ignore him, I’d say that my interns were the team to my coach or the troops to my drill sergeant, my Bad News Bears or my green recruits. I had to tear them down to build them back up, had to make them over in the image of an ideal—which is to say a thoughtful, well-read, and well-spoken—citizen. I had to teach them to aspire.

Aristotle writes in The Poetics that, “the greatest thing by far is to have a command of metaphor. This alone cannot be imparted by another; it is the mark of genius, for to make good metaphors implies an eye for resemblances.” The sinister and criminally insane geniuses behind the administration’s war-mongering and lies—the “Axis of Evil,” the “addiction to oil,” the “time of our choosing”—are skilled at metaphors and portentous turns of phrase and skilled at exploiting them.

So in tiny ways, I tried to encourage our interns to make our language more lovely and more muscular.

When I was bored at work owing to any substantial amount of downtime, I sat in my quiet gray cubicle and worked on poems, an activity which connected me to what I saw as my real life, beyond that summer which had begun to seem increasingly like an intermission or interlude—short, confusing, removable, dream-like.

Despite my affinity for verse, I did not expect my interns to share it. Poetry per se was not the point of my efforts to expand their minds. “I have not here been considering the literary use of language,” Orwell writes, “but merely language as an instrument for expressing and not for concealing or preventing thought.” Exactly. Me too.

Cognitive linguist George Lakoff writes “Frames are mental structures that shape the way we see the world. As a result, they shape the goals we seek, the plans we make, the way we act, and what counts as a good or bad outcome of our actions. In politics our frames shape our social policies and the institutions we form to carry out policies. To change our frames is to change all of this. Reframing is social change.”

My mental structures made me believe that making my interns think equaled a “good outcome” and Lakoff’s argument struck me as a good point and a good exercise. I assigned the interns to read the first chapter of his short and easy-to-understand book, Don’t Think of An Elephant, then to each pick an issue and try to reframe it using a new metaphor.

I took them in hand and I made them make metaphors. I didn’t know if I could reach them. I didn’t know if I could teach them. I still don’t know if anyone can teach anyone anything. People can learn, but it sort of has to take place on their own terms; they have to want it. I facilitated. I vacillated wildly between thinking my job mattered and thinking it was not worth one single fuck. All the while I kept reminding myself I am lucky to be here.

Their reports were, for the most part, boring, half-hearted, and lacking imagination. They were no fun. Aristotle would have disapproved. These people sucked at metaphors. But then again, according to Lakoff so does the whole Democratic party, though that failed to make me feel much better.

This, as with most of my higher order projects during Summer Session I, unfortunately wound up being somewhat of a losing battle (sorry, Orwell, forgive the cliché) as I ended up having much bigger—or rather less ambitious but more necessary—battles to fight. Rather than striving to inspire them to push their reframing skills further, I was soon forced to bring them back to basics, including, but not limited to lowest common denominator standards of courtesy and civil conduct.

* * *

I believe, like my own mom, and her mom before her, that manners might seem small, but they are actually mighty. They are our first best defense against a descent into total barbarism. It is rude not to say thank you in response to a good turn, and it is rude to cut off a fellow driver or to give someone the finger. On a grander scale it is colossally rude to invade a country, for example, in the Middle East, and kill anywhere between 62,144 and 68,141 civilians in the name of “democracy.”

Civility comes down to empathy, to the golden rule, to all the stuff we’ve ever learned about doing unto others. Civility, to me, comes down to my desire to believe that “the main purpose of these States is to found a superb friendship, exalté, previously unknown,/Because I perceive it waits, and has been always waiting, latent in all/men,” as Whitman describes it in “To the East and To the West.”

But even people who do not place such a high premium on civility and politeness would have to fight back the urge to ask my Summer Session I interns whether perhaps they might all of them have been raised by uncivilized wolf-pigs.

I’ll spare you the fully itemized list of offenses, but I’ll hit the high (low?) lights:

One of our press interns, Nate (nicknamed, for dubious reasons, “The Deuce”) has the tendency to sit idly with his wing-tipped feet propped up on the desk in the press cube. The Press Secretary catches him. I get a talking to and have to give one to him, and have to call a meeting on the importance of, if not staying busy and professional, then at least looking that way.

When working reception, Terresa and Vicky do not have the good sense to smile, to say how may I help you, let alone hi, to incoming visitors. When they fail to respond to the salutation of Clarisol, our Chicago director, one of the nicest people you will ever meet (but also one of the last people you want to mess with in terms of respect), I get a talking to and have to give one to them, and have to call a meeting on the value of speaking when spoken to and putting your best face forward.

When, after the first guest speaker I line up as part of our Summer Speaker Series, I ask “Who would like to be in charge of writing the thank you note?” no one replies. My follow-up—“Who knows how to write a thank you note?”—is met with much avoidance of eye contact and a slight shaking of heads. “What, you people don’t have grandmothers?” I gasp before regaining my composure and calling a meeting on how to express gratitude to people who have been kind to you.

Daily, the central conference room devolves into a play pen, a rec room. They toss around the softballs stored in the storeroom for our inter-office league; they hurl magnetized darts against the tall metal file cabinets; they blast music from lame bands’ MySpace sites; and they play Tic Tac Toe and Hangman on the dry erase notice board. They boggle my mind with their lack of propriety, their lack of reverence for the work they’re supposed to be doing, for the constituents they’re supposed to be helping, and for the people who actually work here.

* * *

If Lakoff is correct, and the best metaphor for understanding politics in America is that of the family, then we, my Summer Session I interns and I, were seriously dysfunctional. I was the well-meaning single mom, they were the punkass recalcitrant kids, and everyone else was the absentee fathers. My nurturing approach was being thrown into serious doubt by their increasing demand for punishment and tough love.

My co-workers silently and not-so silently began to blame me for the interns’ rudeness and indomitability. Clarisol asked, wisely, that we have them write their own letters of recommendation, in the hope that in attempting to catalogue what they had accomplished they would realize they had done perilously close to nothing and get their asses in gear. The Press Secretary wanted a contract, a piece of paper outlining duties and requirements that all the interns would have to read and sign so there could be no more excuses.

The hot June day I went to draw the contract up, the news was filled with reports on recently approved changes in the Latin-to-English translation of the Catholic Mass. I had not been to Mass regularly in years, but the words remained engrained in my brain. The Chief of Staff—also Catholic, also semi-lapsed—and I debated the value and impact of these updates over lunch.

“In an accompanying comment section, some bishops wrote anonymously that the new wording was ‘very awkward’ with a ‘heavy, ponderous and often turgid style’ that uses ‘irregular, passive and run-on sentences’,” I read aloud from the newspaper lying on the break room table. “Others, however, said they favored the new translation because it was more poetic and beautiful, more accurate and more faithful to the Latin version.”

“Of course they’ve played up the old guilt aspect,” the Chief of Staff cracked, grabbing the paper and reading, “And instead of confessing, ‘I have sinned through my own fault’ during what’s called the penitential rite, Catholics would say, “I have sinned greatly…through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault.”

I was feeling fairly guilty that day myself, grappling with how best to make an effective contract for the interns.

“I’m happy they left the part of that prayer about sinning ‘in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done, and in what I have failed to do’ alone. I’ve always liked that passage,” I said.

“You’re really into those sins of commission and omission, aren’t you Kathleen?” he asked raising his eyebrows and biting his sandwich.

I supposed I was.

Back at my cube I added to the wording of the contract that interns were not merely to do what they were directly asked, but also to avoid the mistake of sitting around and doing nothing; they were neither to commit any questionable acts, nor were they to neglect to see if they were, in fact, doing all that they possibly could.

My fixation on commission and omission had to do, I decided, with my own sense that perhaps I was not doing enough to Save the World. True, á la the Hippocratic Oath, I was first doing no harm. I was trying not to actively commit any grievous sins against my fellow humans. But perhaps I was leaving out—omitting—some essential actions that could make the world better. I was definitely not performing up to my own standards at my allegedly value-expressive and politically engaged job.

The behavior of my interns baffled and depressed me. As was my wont, I blew the situation up to the nth degree. I began thinking about how manners are the basis of the social contract, and how if you don’t follow that, everything goes out of whack. I knew in my heart that Nate’s feet up on the desk was not an act of terrorism and that Terresa and Vicky’s failure to say hi was not tantamount to an imperialist invasion of an entire country, but their behavior made my job really hard, and me really sad.

“I will plant companionship thick as trees along all the rivers of/ America, and along the shores of the great lakes, and all over/ the prairies,” writes Whitman in “For You, O Democracy.” Yet many were the days during Summer Session I that I felt companionless—paranoid, alienated, more 1984 than Leaves of Grass.

Stop obsessing, I told myself, whenever the interns got too ridiculous to bear. Think about all the other stuff you’re good at. And it was true. I hadn’t just been hired to make the interns better writers; I’d also been hired to write myself. My political language never defended the indefensible. I wrote letters to the editor. I wrote press releases. I wrote Congressional Proclamations and Letters of Congratulations commemorating people on their life achievements: 100th birthdays, 50th wedding anniversaries, careers as educators, figures in the arts, and leaders in the non-profit sector.

Still, I couldn’t help but spend the humid days thinking about the relationship between politics and poetry, between work and love, between beauty and utility, and whether these pairs must always be uneasy bedfellows. Whether there wasn’t some way to transform hopes into actions, to communicate a dream into some kind of reality. As June slunk onward, I remained in that in-between state, a cracked-up mash-up of politics and poetry, which was not just a side product of my work, but which was encouraged by my boss, the Chief of Staff.

“You’re a smart girl, Kathleen,” he said. “You’ll figure something out.”

I reminded myself that, in fairness, there were simply too many of them, way too many for this around-the-office stuff to be going smoothly. It was becoming clear that the parade on that now not-too-distant 4th of July—if for no other reason than their high numbers—might be my shot at redemption and their one time to shine.

I clung to this hope because in my weakest, most frustrated, and most claustrophobic moments—times when I felt I would never leave the office, that I was incompetent, that their bad attitudes were somehow not their faults but mine—it seemed like all I had. I set up a Parade Committee staffed by interns, and subdivided that into subcommittees, each with an area of focus and expertise: food, music, transportation, T-shirts, decorations, and favors to throw. The Chief of Staff was such a cheapskate that in the end, we were allotted almost no money to actually acquire any of these items. The food would come from a free barbecue organized by a local Democratic organization, we would wear last year’s T-shirts, and carry the same banners we’d carried every year since the Senator was elected.

“I want whatever junk we toss to cost no more than a nickel, and we sure as hell aren’t hiring any kind of band,” the Chief of Staff told me when we discussed our parade budget.

“You’re going to have to throw nickels then, because according to Vicky and Terresa’s research, even the cheapest stupid paper fans cost thirteen cents each. And as far as music goes, what do you want me to do? Teach them to sing?”

And that was how I ended up ordering three dozen kazoos. We wouldn’t have to throw anything, and we’d have instant music if every intern was handed an instrument and told to play, the Chief of Staff concluded in a feat of logic that confirmed, again, why he was a brilliant Chief of Staff.

The interns were delighted. Kazoos! Kazoos! The breakroom was abuzz—at first, metaphorically, and when the shipment arrived, literally. The parade subcommittees killed their time, cut their slacking, and got them finally—finally!—excited about something.

In my dark nights spent wondering whether I was really doing anything, wondering whether the notion of making a difference might be, in my life at least, no more than a myth, I thought about the kazoos and the parade and how the Senator would be there and how maybe we would all be one big happy democracy.

* * *

The interns and I did have our moments. Once, discussing our framing projects, Vicky sighed out loud that “Writing is hard. Metaphors are hard.”

“I agree,” I said. “But why do you say that?”

“Because I have this perfect idea in my brain and in my heart of how things should be, and when I try to get it down it won’t come out that way.”

A nod of agreement ran in a wave around the table, and we all had a chat about the inevitable loss between idea and execution. About the frustration that occurs when we go from promise to actuality, from prophecy to reality, and how you can never say whatever it is you want to say exactly the way it seemed in your mind.

That afternoon I was happy and the parade crept closer.

The parade would be a cavalcade of all I’d done, like a talent show, a quiz bowl, a spelling bee. The interns and I would all show up and perform and everyone would see we’d finally made something of our sorry selves.

* * *

When the day finally arrived, it felt at first like a feel-good movie that would never feel good in real life. Like the script was a joke, all the actors miscast. Like I wanted to be a hero, but was playing a fool.

As we piled into the rented minivans downtown—the interns from Summer Session I, the new ones from Summer Session II, and the staffers—I stared at the interns in their Dick Durbin T-shirts clutching their shiny kazoos and wondered if maybe I wasn’t kidding myself about our heading toward some kind of definitive reversal of fortune, some kind of salvation for the previous six weeks.

We arrived at the first parade in Wheaton, Illinois, a conservative suburb in conservative DuPage County, 25 miles west of Chicago. The home of Wheaton College, itself the home of evangelical preacher Billy Graham, Wheaton contains 45 churches, reputedly more per square mile than any other U.S. City

Tragedy enobles. Comedy cuts down to size. What else could this job—this day— be, but both? I thought.

The Chief of Staff—after all this stress and preparation—was away with his family at his home in Springfield. But the Senator was there, and as we began to march under the lurid sun, in the middle of the lineup, after the brassy marching bands, the sequined majorettes, and the howling fire trucks, he was marching beside me.

“It’s the poet!” he said, smiling, avuncular. “Have you got any patriotic poetry to recite?”

I am a terrible memorizer, but the man was a senator. “O Captain, My Captain!” I declaimed, because Abraham Lincoln is very important, and Illinois is the Land of Lincoln; this land is his land, even if he was a Republican. Also, “O Captain, My Captain!” and “She Walks in Beauty Like the Night” by Byron are about the only poems I have by heart (besides my own) and it’s certainly the more patriotic.

Once I was finished and the Senator had moved ahead to kiss the babies and press the flesh, I inquired of my kazoo-bearing interns, “Do you take requests?”

“You bet,” said Matt.

“My Country ‘Tis of Thee?” I tried. And to my disbelief, they complied. Not only that, but they complied with zeal and panache. “The 1812 Overture,” “America the Beautiful,” and “Stars and Stripes Forever” followed in quick succession, and they kept up their improbable music for the duration of the mile and a half course.

At the end of the route, the Senator, surrounded by kazooing interns, made his way through the people lining the roadside until he got to a dour and balding man in a Roskam for the House T-shirt. The Senator reached out to shake his hand, but the man pulled it away, his face a rictus of disgust. The Senator recovered gracefully, petting the head of the dog at the man’s side, but the man jerked the animal back.

“My dog is Republican, too,” he snapped.

And in a feat of kazooing that could have brought a tear to even the driest eye, the interns responded to rudeness with big-hearted kindness and humor. Matt had them strike up “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” And it didn’t matter that the parade would soon end, that the Republican candidate would win this seat, that I would move away to Washington state, and that the interns would go on to other internships, other places to pad their resumes. For a moment, we’d done it. We were in Whitman’s America.

Sun-drenched and sweaty in their Dick Durbin regalia, kazoos in their right hands, cheap vinyl American flags in their left—they bore the Senator along: “the party of young fellows, robust, friendly,/Singing, with open mouths, their strong melodious songs.”



“still all in the making,” and “a promise, a possible something,” and “an idea, a forecast, a prophecy…” Walt Whitman to biographer Horace Traubel,

“people are imprisoned,” and “The words democracy, and “swindles and perversions” abound. Where “political speech...” Orwell, George. “Politics and the English Language.” 1946.

“O Democracy, to serve you ma femme!” Whitman, Walt. “For You, O Democracy.” Leaves of Grass. 1856.

“To a Western Boy” Whitman, Walt. Leaves of Grass.

“Modern English, especially written English...” and “(i) Never use a metaphor...” Orwell, George. “Politics and the English Language.” 1946.

“the greatest thing by far...” Aristotle The Poetics http://www/

“I have not here been considering the literary...” Orwell, George. “Politics and the English Language.” 1946.

“Frames are mental structures...” Lakoff, George. Don’t Think of An Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate. Chelsea Green: New York, 2004: xv.

“62,144 and 68,141 civilians...”

“the main purpose of these States is to found...” Whitman, Walt. “To the East and To the West.” Leaves of Grass.

“I will plant companionship thick as trees...” Whitman, Walt. For You, O Democracy.” Leaves of Grass.

“the party of young fellows, robust, friendly...” Whitman, Walt. “I Hear America Singing.” Leaves of Grass.



Kathleen Rooney is a poet and a writer. With Abby Beckel, she is a founding editor of Rose Metal Press. With Elisa Gabbert, she is the author of That Tiny Insane Voluptuousness (Otoliths, 2008). With Counterpoint Press, her prose collection For You, For You I Am Trilling These Songs is now available. With her husband, the writer Martin Seay, she lives in Chicago, where she works as a Visiting Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing at DePaul University. Visit her site at