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Whitman Recidivist

Gary Corseri: Walt Whitman can't remember what he did with America... It was there in his back pocket yesterday or the day before: caroling, brawling, lusty, democratic; stretching its broad-backed plainsin the sun between seas.

"I know I am restless and make others so...
for I confront peace, security, and all the settled laws,
to unsettle them..." -- Walt Whitman

walt whitman

1.

Walt Whitman can't remember
what he did with America...

It was there in his back pocket
yesterday or the day before:
caroling, brawling, lusty, democratic;
stretching its broad-backed plains
in the sun between seas.

He walks from door to door
selling subscriptions to the Universe.
Who are these sad-eyed does,
this tamed race, moping proletariat?
What are these buildings
yeasting on the plains,
that drone of the cities—
ennui echoing ennui?

Men on the moon, rockets,
tele-this and tele-that—
but … what Vision?--
all the wires entangling:
some hydra-headed nullifidian
sucking the wounds of the eyes,
eating democracy, spitting it out—
these people … this land--
lost… O lost! Lost…

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2.

Walt Whitman decides to invent
America anew—
towering architecture, spires,
cathedrals of the common man,
with the fierce light of the free heart
bursting, spinning the golden spinnakers—
fit for the forest and prairie,
taking its proper name from them—
revealed in the splendor of mountains.

He needs no Constitution!
He needs no legal shenanigans!
Give it back to the Indians who nourished it!
Give it back to the Blacks who bled for it!
Give it back to the Mexicanoes
who owned it first!
Give it back to the Chinese
who laid the tracks
over their dead bodies!

Unraveling, evolving, manifesting,
touching the planets and stars,
white beard pointed jauntily to Orion,
loins resting languorously
against the hot flanks of Alpha Centauri…

Raging, laughing, crying, decrying;
prodding, urging, discommoding, incanting;
demonic mandarin; mage; Magellanic—
hurtling humongous challenges again:

Where is the nation that can contain him?
Where are the people to sunder their shrines?

Gary Corseri