Monday, February 04, 2008

Ode to Walt Whitman

After a year of continual dying, of ending both sudden and lingering,
the deaths of parents, the death of a life once lived, no place to go now,
a long year of being nothing to myself, but of washing the dying, and their homes,
after years of dangerous solitary migration across mountains and by an ocean,
across a world in exile in a homeless truck, a whistling trailer disintegrating
airborne in sudden wind, the alembic travel of a nomadic anchorite,
after years of wandering homeless, camping in deserts and by oceans,
years living nowhere before living too much here, of too much giving,
I turn to you, Walt Whitman.

You remind me, every time I see your beard in the grocery aisles
checking out the stock boys, you tell me, whenever I see you giving me
a strong look across a crowded station before disappearing through the turnstiles,
you leave me stranded, these late nights I can't get home, Walt,
then reel me in with your naked laugh.

After the ecstasy, poet, the laundry. Washing dishes before bed,
already undressed, I see your eyes glint outside the kitchen window,
sparking reflections, peeping Walt, daring me to come back to life.
To dare to love again, after these months
living with death, the dead, these tables left behind.
There's your face in a scrapbook my grandmother gathered, long buried
in a trunk that's been to India and back—my own passage to India, Walt,
more literal than yours, my childhood browning in that sun; not your sun,
but still the same sun—buried in the winter basement next to
her scrapbooks of Lincoln memorabilia.
There are lilacs on the black pages where he lay.
I see your likeness, poet, in the overcast cafés
of winter-locked midwestern smalltowns. Here's your portrait in effigy
above the science fiction section of a used book store. You look down on me
in bathrooms, scrawling graffiti in the johns of heaven,
slow smiles in the long beards of aging lovers.

Walt Whitman, your beard drips white dew.
Your young Irish lover in his jaunty bowler hat has strolled the aisles
of thrift stores here, leaving his hat behind. Your gray woolen coat hung
on the rack at Goodwill, your gray trousers are missing.
Still your scent lingered in the air, Walt Whitman, and the sounds of birds
that once lived in the sheaves of the great gray poet’s beard.

Walt Whitman, I look for reasons
to go on. I have sought to live in grasslands, in wastelands, in wilderness,
now that I have only myself to live for. I think of you wherever eros
and thanatos intersect, wherever ekstasis
seems to surge greenly forward. I think of you when I cruise
the priest at the funeral, when I get an erection in the library,
at the supermarket. I think of you whenever I feel the urge of life
in my testes loins and genitals beating back that bitter neutron tide of entropy.
Lately when I am massaged, erotic and naked together,
I know I am feeling the lifeforce sap rising through me
so that death shall have no dominion, and death shall have
no dominion over sex and life and lifelove—this urge
to ecstasy is a direct path towards rebirth, a trajectory of the rejection
of what old shame would not let me invite you into this new life, this greening,
this opening of the portals of the mystery of hope.

Let me speak as freely as you, Walt Whitman: let me shout
my loud barbaric yawp from the rooftops of the world, that
I have loved men as you loved men, not excluding women
who I have also loved, before. I want to celebrate,
to masturbate, to agitate, not cogitate.

Sex is rebellion against death.
Whenever I make love to myself I think of you, Walt Whitman.
When I look at the waiters in restaurants and country clubs, I am cruising
in your name’s bold honor. When I lay naked and spent
in silent minutes after sex with my lover, Walt Whitman,
you are laying with us. When we enfold each other
in our arms after making love, you are there with us, laying with us,
watching over us, breathing with us, running your phantom hands across
our cooling thighs. Your legs twine together with ours.

I dedicate my next dozen orgasms to you, poet of life and rebirth,
poet of comrades together, of walking naked under clear summer skies—
each greening wave launches a new created tree of life
across nebulous illumined space into exploding worldbringers
spreading life in sparking quanta, falling fire rain, created songs
of generative outcries.

                              You came,
you ogled the boys playing basketball
mostly shirtless in the sweat of summer evenings,
you saw, you arrived stepping off ferry boats
into the press of the throng, you conquered
every heart in the breasts you touched, male and female
you created them, all in love with you did you create them,
Walt, all of us loved you, even rejection itself just love
turned backwards into spite yet still threaded
through that same needle of connection
you sung about, out of the cradle, captain, and fallen
back into death to lay between two sleepers swimming
an ocean, saying your name in the capital, in their sleep.

Walt Whitman, I envy you. You're more free now than ever.
Your voice has not been silenced but sings through
every boy and girl first loving, first striding a road away
from home, first discovering each other, first wedding
themselves to field flower rapture sun-shrugged rain.
You continue to sing, Walt, some days you won't be quiet.

Your voice in my hearing too young, perhaps,
I stepped out as early as I could, you embraced me, in Calamus, to speak
as I would speak, not as others would demand I speak.
There is no closet that can fold us in, Walt Whitman,
we are making love to remind ourselves we are still alive.

Walt Whitman, are you watching me naked now and again?
Are you watching the bathers in the rivers of heaven?
Do the wounded soldiers you bathed and read to visit you still?
Do you look down on the bathers in today's riverine swimming holes?
I admire you, poet, for celebrating this body of life.
I want to be with you in heaven, Walt Whitman,
admiring your vitality and endurance.

I am stretching forth my own body
to be one with you, Walt Whitman,
and to be embraced by you all night,
all mourning passed by, overturned.
I am making love to you, poet of love,
with words I come to you,
to be with you,
to be alive,

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Blogger Jasonistutz said...

great, just great.

10:44 PM  

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