For Walt Whitman

Poets to come! orators, singers, musicians to come!
Not today 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 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, “Leaves of Grass”

i have heard you
I have heard your barbaric yawp penetrating
through time and I answer you
mine is the soft voice in the cacophony people brushing up
against each other, me, travelling at high speed
i know them all, I am them all the
musician the teacher the
engineer, the migrant worker,
the immigrant, the wanderer, the homebody
the maid, the scientist, the
politician, the single mother with babe in arms,
the married couple,
the homemaker, the preacher, the old couple sitting
on a park bench
the young lovers
the writer, the trucker, the gas station worker,
Native American, African American, Asian, Muslim,
Christian, policeman, fireman, physician
the same sex couple, the child, the son
the daughter, the father
I know them all, I am them all, my words your words
their words immortal the poet-priest in me weaves
through the cities, the country, the prairies, the mountains
the rivers, the lakes, the oceans
the farms
the ranches,
brushes by the rich,
the poor
the middle-class they are all of you of me
I sing their song chant their chants, the they of who they are lives
and breathes with me and in me poetry
not dead in this time but an after current of conscience not
readily discernible but thrumming as blood
running through the body electric the poets, the artists the heartbeat
so obscure the main do not realize it keeps them alive
O Captain
my captain
I have seen you in that song of myself one
of many songs thousands
who did not know their song
I have brushed by you in the crowds and looking askance
I define you in defining myself
o you
dandy
wanderer
lover
man
poet

2013

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