Walt Whitman worked on the Underground Railroad. He wanted to create a new America that lifts up everyone, extols the labor of everyone. No one goes unseen or unheard.
I will no longer take things at second or third hand; they are staring me in the face with their faceless faces. I can smell them.
I weave a song of ourselves. Why am I here at this juncture? What can I offer? How can I work? How do I help? I will be your poet because I am here! What better reason is there! A river rushes through me and I search for the water-washed diamond of compassion in a river of judicial sin.
Unscrew the locks from the shattered doors of misery. Unscrew the doors of misery themselves from the marble jambs of injustice.
If you are degraded, I am degraded.
If you become degraded, criminal, ill, then I become so for your
sake and we are both officially degraded.
Why can’t America understand that?
If you remember your foolish and outlaw’d deeds, do you think
I cannot remember my own foolish and outlaw’d deeds?
If you carouse at the table I carouse at the opposite side of the
Well, I don’t exactly carouse at the opposite side of the table in the meetings,
but I record everything. I cannot forget anything. I will never forget these faces.
Why what have you thought of yourself?
Is it you then that thought yourself less?
Is it you that thought the President greater than you?
Or the rich better off than you? or the educated wiser than you?
I see in your faces that many you cannot think anymore. You are tired and living under bakeries and in culverts. You cannot think because you are dying.
Souls of men and women! it is not you I call unseen, unheard,
untouchable and untouching,
It is not you I go argue pro and con about, and to settle whether
you are alive or no,
I own publicly who you are, if nobody else owns. I will accept nothing less than democracy for us and I will call out in songs and broadsheets those who deny democracy and degrade my fellow Americans.
Writing and talk do not prove me. I will act.
All truths wait in all things. And I will act to prove the waiting will reveal the truths about us.
We are a leaf of grass, a journey to the stars, but now there is only fake grass and black bureaucratic holes that swallowed us, our past, our future.
You will never notice it until you are inside it, a windowless, soundproofed, parched room, colored a dirty cream color, with shelves of workbooks and VHS tapes and walls of homilies, and with golf pencils to record your demise or beg permission to crawl.
I cannot fail. I cannot travel with you. You must travel the road alone and for yourself. (A dog is fine.)
You will find a few good Samaritans and birds (if you notice) to assist you and many detractors hidden under their slimy rocks or burrowed in their worm-riddled woodwork.
You will stray. No one is coming to to find you like a shepherd going after the lost sheep, all of whom have GPS chips in them, thus ruining the parable forever.
But I am out there with you, in spirit, in body, with the trunk of my car laden with goods to tide you over until the next high tide washes over you and leaves you splayed in a mud flat. Think of my hand pulling you out, because you are a man and a woman, and the hand must always be extended to help you up if we are to remain human in these perilous American times of non humanity.
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