It’s possible Whitman meant the sudden movement of the universe, more commonly used to describe the phenomenon of flux
as when a shift in a single cell’s division alters pupa and the suddenly bright alarm of a butterfly anoints the end of a branch.
Or perhaps it was reflecting life’s stasis, the material of the body alleviating the ether. wind shift . The butterfly leafed, errant.
More likely, Whitman’s was a simple, corporeal request: Shift this body I’ve loved all my life, this bag of suffering side to side.
And today leaving Vilnius for his dacha, driving through fields of high grass, systems of birds feeding on flax, it was Arvidas
pointing to the gear stick, saying Shift , one of the few English words her knows, that had me thinking Whitman, his last word.
we pulled over by a lake, skipped stones on the water, their arcs diminishing across, the lake reconstituting itself. Shift , the word
shifting in and out of my head, and as I said it, the closer, the more fleeting, the less I cared for definition, and felt good, like it just stopped raining.