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A Whitman's Sampler for Valentine's Day

366478-271952-thumbnail.jpgThou reader throbbest life and pride and love the same as I,
Therefore for thee the following chants.

So there I was, in the Detroit Wayne County Airport, with a two-hour layover to kill at the end of a work week.  No more talking points or power points.  Time to fertilize the brain.  I spy the ultimate Whitman Sampler: Leaves of Grass.  In my growing devotion to all things New York, I've come across his stuff... Manahatta... Crossing Brooklyn Ferry...  But now this bracing jolt.

It is I you hold and who holds you,
I spring from the pages into your arms

That's good.  

I look up and around the store.  He's talking to ME!!  Can they tell?  Did they see me recoil at that line and nearly drop the book?  Got. To. Buy. This.  Act natural.  Be cool.  It's Leaves of Grass, for crying out loud, not Tropic of Cancer.  (Although just in case, I buy some gum, a Sports Illustrated, and a comb just to be safe.)  And so, in these first few pages, he sprang into my arms, to the background music of CNN Airport News...

... all times mischoose the objects of their adulation and reward.
(CNN: "In entertainment news, Kelly Clarkson brings home two Grammys"...)

Oh, to be self-balanced for contingencies,
To confront night, storms, hunger, ridicule, accidents, rebuffs as the trees and animals do.
(CNN: "In sports, another NBA player jumps into the stands after a hapless blowhard of a fan.")

Stop this day and night with me and you shall posess the
     origin of all poems,
You shall posess the good of the earth and sun, (there are
     millions of suns left,)
You shall no longer take things at second or third hand, nor
     look through the eyes of the dead, nor feed on the spectres
     in books,
You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things
     from me,
You shall listen to all sides and filter them from your self.
(CNN:  In the Situation Room, the yammering talking-head-of-the-moment tells Wolf Blitzer what "really matters to the American people.")

This is the press of a bashful hand, this the float and odor of hair,
This the touch of my lips to yours, this the murmur of
(CNN:  In entertainment news, Billy Joel calls out two 'Nylon Curtain' songs that are two faves:  Where's the Orchestra; She's Right on Time.  One I used to sing to Her our senior year in college.  The other is more or less about us, too.  I'll never get over the smell of her hair.  She broke my heart in 17 places.  She knows.)

This hour I tell things in confidence.
I might not tell everybody, but I will tell you.

(Both of us are married, with three kids apiece.  We just emailed each other at Thanksgiving. I can go months without talking to her... longest was a year and a half... but it's a Brigadoon kind of friendship.  [Editor's note:  More on that later.  Remind me.]

Each moment and whatever happens thrills me with joy,
I cannot tell how my ankles bend, nor whence the cause of my
     faintest wish,
Nor the cause of the friendship I emit, nor the cause of the
     friendship I take again.

That I walk up my stoop, I pause to consider if it really be,
A morning-glory at my window satisfies me more than the
     metaphysics of books.

To behold the day-break!
The little light fades the immense and diaphanous shadows,
The air tastes good to my palate.

(I don't know why things catch me the way they do.  But there's whimsy to be seen in each day.  As Elvis Costello says, "I'm having the time of my life; or something quite like it."  Because I'm home now, Grass stains on the brain, ready to cook Saturday morning breakfast for the kids!) 

[Written on Saturday, filed late Monday night.]

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