Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Ode to Walt Whitman

By the East River and the Bronx
the boys were singing, showing off their waists.
With the wheel, the oil, the leather and the hammer
ninety thousand miners hewed the silver from the rocks
and the boys drew stairways and perspectives.

But not one of them slept,
not one wanted to be a river,
not one loved the broad leaves,
not one, the blue tongue of the beach.

By the East River and the Queensborough
the boys struggled with industry,
and the Jews sold to the river faun
the rose of circumcision,
and the heavens emptied on the bridges and rooftops
herds of bison pushed about by the wind.

But not one of them delayed,
not one wanted to be a cloud,
not one looked for ferns
or for the yellow wheel of the drum.

When the moon comes out,
the pulleys will churn up the skies;
a fence of needles will encircle the memory
and coffins will carry away those who do not work.

Muddy New York,
New York of wire and death:
What angel do you carry hidden in your cheek?
What perfect voice will tell the truths of the wheat?
Who, the terrible dream of your stained anemones?

Not for a single moment, beautiful old Walt Whitman,
have I stopped seeing your beard full of butterflies,
nor your corduroy shoulders wasted by moonlight,
nor your thighs—like a virginal Apollo—
nor your voice like a column of ash;
ancient one, beautiful as the fog,
who keens just like a bird does
when his sex has been run through with a needle.
Enemy of the satyr.
Enemy of the vine,
and lover of bodies beneath coarse cloth.

Not for a single moment, my virile beauty,
who among mountains of coal, notices and streetcars,
dreamed of being a river and of sleeping like a river,
with that comrade who tucked into your chest
the minor pain of the ignorant leopard.

Not for a single moment, bloody Adam, big guy,
man alone in the sea, beautiful old Walt Whitman,
because on the rooftops,
huddled in the bars,
coming up in gangs from the sewers,
trembling between the legs of chauffeurs
or spinning on the ramparts of absinthe,
the fags, Walt Whitman, are pointing at you.

Him too! And him! They throw
upon your chaste and luminous beard—
Northern blondes, desert blacks—
a multitude of cries and gestures,
like cats and like serpents,
the fags, Walt Whitman, the fags,
muddled with tears, flesh for the crop,
boot or bite of the overseers.

Him too! And him! Stained fingers
poke at the borders of your dream
when your friend eats the apple
that tastes slightly of gasoline,
and the sun sings on the navels
of the boys who play beneath bridges.

But you didn't seek the torn-out eyes,
nor the dark swamp where they drown young boys,
nor the frozen saliva,
nor the wounded curves like toads' bellies
that the fags bring with them in cars and on terraces
as the moon beats them back through the corners of terror.

You searched for a nude who would be like a river.
Bull and dream that joins the wheel to the algae,
father of your agony, camelia of your death,
who would howl in the flames of your dark equator.

Because it's not fair for a man to seek his pleasure
in the bloody jungle of the morning after.
There are beaches in the sky where you can avoid life forever,
and there are bodies that should never be seen again at dawn.

Pain, pain, dream, tumult and dream.
This is the world, my friend: pain and pain.
The dead rot beneath the clock of the cities.
The war passes by weeping a million gray rats;
the rich give their girlfriends
tiny glowing invalids,
and life is not noble or sacred or good.

Man may, if he wants to, force his desire
through coral vein or heavenly nude;
tomorrow lovers will be rocks and Time
a breeze that comes sleepily among the branches.

Because of this, I don't raise my voice, old Walt Whitman,
against the boy who writes
a girl's name on his pillow,
nor against the youth who dresses up like a bride
in the darkness of his closet,
nor against the loners in the casinos
who gulp down prostitution with disgust,
nor against the men of the green gaze
who love other men and whose lips burn in silence.
But yes, against you, faggots of the cities,
swollen flesh and filthy thoughts.
Mothers of lust. Harpies. Tireless enemies
of the love that bestows crowns of joy.

I am always against you, who give to young men
drops of dirty death with bitter venom.
Against you forever,
“Fairies” of North America,
“Pajaros” of Havana,
“Jotos” of Mexico,
“Sarasas” of Cadiz,
“Apios” of Seville,
“Cancos” of Madrid,
“Floras” of Alicante,
“Adelaidas” of Portugal.

Faggots of the world, the assassins of doves!
Slaves of women. The handler's bitches.
Openly in the plazas, feverishly fanning yourselves,
or hidden in twisting pathways among the hemlock.

I'll give no quarter! Death
seeps from your eyes
and gathers gray flowers at the edges of the swamp.
No quarter! Be warned!
May the confused, the pure,
the classical ones, the marked ones, the pilgrims,
shut you up inside the bacchanal.

And you, beautiful Walt Whitman, sleep next to the Hudson
with your beard towards the Pole and your hands fallen open.
Smooth clay or snow, your tongue is calling
comrades to look after your bodiless gazelle.

Sleep: nothing remains.
A dance of walls stirs up the prairies
and America is drowned with machines and lamenting.
I wish the strong air of the deepest night
would pluck flowers and letters from the arch where you sleep,
and a black boy announce to the gold-covered whites
the coming reign of the wheat.

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