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Not heat flames up and consumes, Not sea-waves hurry in and out, Not the air delicious and dry, the air of ripe summer, bears lightly along white down-balls of myriads of seeds, Waited, sailing gracefully, to drop where they may; Not these, O none of these more than the flames of me, consuming, burning for his love whom I love, O none more than I hurrying in and out; Does the tide hurry, seeking something, and never give up? O I the same, O nor down-balls nor perfumes, nor the high rain-emitting clouds, are borne through the open air, Any more than my soul is borne through the open air, Wafted in all directions O love, for friendship, for you.
Trickle drops! my blue veins leaving! O drops of me! trickle, slow drops, Candid from me falling, drip, bleeding drops, From wounds made to free you whence you were prison'd, From my face, from my forehead and lips, From my breast, from within where I was conceal'd, press forth red drops, confession drops, Stain every page, stain every song I sing, every word I say, bloody drops, Let them know your scarlet heat, let them glisten, Saturate them with yourself all ashamed and wet, Glow upon all I have written or shall write, bleeding drops, Let it all be seen in your light, blushing drops.
City of orgies, walks and joys, City whom that I have lived and sung in your midst will one day make Not the pageants of you, not your shifting tableaus, your spectacles, repay me, Not the interminable rows of your houses, nor the ships at the wharves, Nor the processions in the streets, nor the bright windows with goods in them, Nor to converse with learn'd persons, or bear my share in the soiree or feast; Not those, but as I pass O Manhattan, your frequent and swift flash of eyes offering me love, Offering response to my own—these repay me, Lovers, continual lovers, only repay me.
Behold this swarthy face, these gray eyes, This beard, the white wool unclipt upon my neck, My brown hands and the silent manner of me without charm; Yet comes one a Manhattanese and ever at parting kisses me lightly on the lips with robust love, And I on the crossing of the street or on the ship's deck give a kiss in return, We observe that salute of American comrades land and sea, We are those two natural and nonchalant persons.
I saw in Louisiana a live-oak growing, All alone stood it and the moss hung down from the branches, Without any companion it grew there uttering joyous of dark green, And its look, rude, unbending, lusty, made me think of myself, But I wonder'd how it could utter joyous leaves standing alone there without its friend near, for I knew I could not, And I broke off a twig with a certain number of leaves upon it and twined around it a little moss, And brought it away, and I have placed it in sight in my room, It is not needed to remind me as of my own dear friends, (For I believe lately I think of little else than of them,) Yet it remains to me a curious token, it makes me think of manly love; For all that, and though the live-oak glistens there in Louisiana solitary in a wide in a wide flat space, Uttering joyous leaves all its life without a friend a lover near, I know very well I could not.
Passing stranger! you do not know how longingly I look upon you, You must be he I was seeking, or she I was seeking, (it comes to me as of a dream,) I have somewhere surely lived a life of joy with you, All is recall'd as we flit by each other, fluid, affectionate, chaste, matured, You grew up with me, were a boy with me or a girl with me, I ate with you and slept with you, your body has become not yours only nor left my body mine only, You give me the pleasure of your eyes, face, flesh, as we pass, you take of my beard, breast, hands, in return, I am not to speak to you, I am to think of you when I sit alone or wake at night alone, I am to wait, I do not doubt I am to meet you again, I am to see to it that I do not lose you.
This moment yearning and thoughtful sitting alone, It seems to me there are other men in other lands yearning and thoughtful, It seems to me I can look over and behold them in Germany, Italy, France, Spain, Or far, far away, in China, or in Russia or talking other dialects, And it seems to me if I could know those men I should become attached to them as I do to men in my own lands, O I know we should be brethren and lovers, I know I should be happy with them.
I hear it was charged against me that I sought to destroy institutions, But really I am neither for nor against institutions, (What indeed have I in common with them? or what with the destruction of them?) Only I will establish in the Mannahatta and in every city of these States inland and seaboard, And in the fields and woods, and above every keel little or large that dents the water, Without edifices or rules or trustees or any argument, The institution of the dear love of comrades.
The prairie-grass dividing, its special odor breathing, I demand of it the spiritual corresponding, Demand the most copious and close companionship of men, Demand the blades to rise of words, acts, beings, Those of the open atmosphere, coarse, sunlit, fresh, nutritious, Those that go their own gait, erect, stepping with freedom and command, leading not following, Those with a never-quell'd audacity, those with sweet and lusty flesh clear of taint, Those that look carelessly in the faces of Presidents and governors, as to say Who are you? Those of earth-born passion, simple, never constrain'd, never obedient, Those of inland America.
When I peruse the conquer'd fame of heroes and the victories of mighty generals, I do not envy the generals, Nor the President in his Presidency, nor the rich in his great house, But when I hear of the brotherhood of lovers, how it was with them, How together through life, through dangers, odium, unchanging, long and long, Through youth and through middle and old age, how unfaltering, how affectionate and faithful they were, Then I am pensive—I hastily walk away fill'd with the bitterest envy.