I tramp the perpetual journeyMy signs are a rain-proof coat, good shoes and a staff cut from the woods, No friend of mine takes his ease in my chair, I have no chair, no philosophy, I lead no man to a dinner-table, library, exchange, But each man and each woman of you I lead upon a knoll, My left hand hooking you round the waist, My right hand pointing to landscapes of continents and the public road. Not I, not any one else can travel that road for you, You must travel it for yourself. It is not far, it is within reach, Perhaps you have been on it since you were born and did not know, Perhaps it is everywhere on water and on land. Shoulder your duds dear son and I will mine and let us hasten forth, Wonderful cities and free nations we shall fetch as we go. If you tire, give me both burdens and rest the chuff of your hand on my hip, And in due time you shall repay the same service to me, For after we start we never lie by again. This day before dawn I ascended a hill and look'd at the crowded heaven, And I said to my spirit When we become the enfolders of those orbs and the pleasure and knowledge of every thing in them, shall we be fill'd and satisfied then? And my spirit said No, we but level that lift to pass and continue beyond. You are also asking me questions and I hear you, I answer that I cannot answer, you must find out for yourself. Sit a while dear son, Here are biscuits to eat and here is milk to drink, But as soon as you sleep and renew yourself in sweet clothes, I kiss you with a good-by kiss and open the gate for your egress hence. Long enough have you dream'd contemptible dreams, Now I wash the gum from your eyes, You must habit yourself to the dazzle of the light and of every moment of your life. Long have you timidly waded holding a plank by the shore, Now I will you to be a bold swimmer, To jump off in the midst of the sea, rise again, nod to me, shout and laughingly dash with your hair.
Walt Whitman
Reminiscing in the drizzle of Portland, I notice the ring that’s landed on your finger, a massiveinsect of glitter, a chandelier shining at the endof a long tunnel. Thirteen years ago, you hid the hurtin your voice under a blanket and said there’s two kindsof women—those you write poems aboutand those you don’t. It’s true. I never brought youa bouquet of sonnets, or served you haiku in bed.My idea of courtship was tapping Jane’s Addictionlyrics in Morse code on your window at three A.M., whiskey doing push-ups on my breath. But I workedwithin the confines of my character, castas the bad boy in your life, the Magellanof your dark side. We don’t have a past so muchas a bunch of electricity and liquor, powernever put to good use. What we had togethermakes it sound like a virus, as if we caughtone another like colds and desire was merelya symptom that could be treated with soupand lots of sex. Gliding beside you now, I feel like the Benjamin Franklin of monogamy, as if I invented it, but I’m still not immuneto your waterfall scent, still haven’t developedantibodies for your smile. I don’t know how longregret existed before humans stuck a word on it.I don’t know how many paper towels it would taketo wipe up the Pacific Ocean, or why the lightof a candle being blown out travels fasterthan the luminescence of one that’s just been lit, but I do know that all our huffing and puffinginto each other’s ears—as if the brain was a trickbirthday candle—didn’t make the silenceany easier to navigate. I’m sorry all the kissesI scrawled on your neck were writtenin disappearing ink. Sometimes I thought of youso hard one of your legs would pop outof my ear hole and when I was sleeping, you’d pressyour face against the porthole of my submarine.I’m sorry this poem has taken thirteen yearsto reach you. I wish that just once, instead of skiddingoff the shoulder blade’s precipice and joyridingover flesh, we’d put our hands away like chocolateto be saved for later and deciphered the calligraphyof each other’s eyelashes, translated a paragraphfrom the volumes of what couldn’t be said.
Jeffrey McDaniel