Walt Whitman:

a 21st Century Gathering

Michael Heller
SAG HARBOR, WHITMAN, AS IF AN ODE I. And so again, to want to speak—as though floating on this world— thoughts of Sagaponak, of Paumanok, "its shore gray and rustling," To remember late sun burnishing with a pale gold film the feathery ghosts of blue heron and tern, of that same light furrowed in the glyphed tracks to bay water. And at night, to scrape one's own marks in sand, a bio-luminescence underfoot by which we playfully signaled, as the heat of bodies also was a signal to turn to each other in the guest house buried in deep sunk must and trellised scents. As though, again, to be as with mossed graves which, even as they lie under new buds, are worn and lichened, chiselled over with letter and number, entrapped, as in the scripts of museum words, trypots and scrims. And so, like whalers, whose diaries record a lostness to the world in the sea's waves, to find ourselves in talk's labyrinth where the new is almost jargon, and we speak of lintels of a house restored or of gods who stage their return at new leaf or where pollen floats on water in iridescent sheens. II. But also now, to sense mind harrowed in defeats of language, Bosnia, Rwanda, wherever human speech goes under a knife. And to be unable to look to the sea, as to some watery possibility which would break down the hellish rock of history that rides above wave height as above time. Strange then, these littorals teeming with sea life, with crab and ocean swallow. Strange then, to walk and to name— glad of that momentary affluence. And so to find again the vibratory spring that beats against old voicings, old silences, this waking to those fables where new bees fly up, birthed spontaneously from the log's hollow, to hear again the latinate of returning birds keeping alive curiosity and memory, as if the ear were to carry us across hope's boundary, remembering the words: Now, I will do nothing but listen! P L A N E T A R Y M A T T E R S Earth! Earth! Super revelation of the continent more than itself, a king crowning himself by his own power, so that through him his vassalages that come and go are self-actuating diadems carrying the ransom of their knowledge. Those who hurl themselves, their feet thrust in sandals, clawing at demons. They who tread across the earth as though free: following long serpentine waters, born of straight forward jets from these mountains. Grand rivers searching for equilibrium through gorges and unnerving projections, rolling, flaunting, slobbering. They conduct themselves to the embouchures, to the final basins dissolving in deceptive sprays, finally running to the sea, dropsical, blurred. The sea mountainless, the sea decapitated as though cured of its leaden grey ennui. And we who dance like she-bears before its waves, we . . . Wonder! From here to there—to those feet, climbing—hailed. The sea, alien in its self-possession! It carries itself enroute, in its own studied slavery, towards you, vehement in your solidity.
both poems are from This Constellation is a Name: Collected Poems — Nightboat Book, (2012)

Alan Catlin
Walt Whitman's Melancholy Tide Out into rain stretched roadways cobblestones flickered by the skimming hooves of a multitude of horses burned by the vicissitudes of war; Down refuse strewn alleys, drunk and bedraggled sinners, homeless angels wounded by peripheral wars in honky tonk ale houses, brain fevered and dazzled by unfettered years of carnal dissipations, pores leaking effluvial blood and pus and beer; Staggered by impossible situations: whole armies laid down in ruinous combat, ravaged by disease, dysentery, incessant scourgings of the flesh, delirium tremens like dreaming a St. Vitus Dance of death; Cruising the shadowy, ruined places, mass burial grounds, the Civil War dead revisit after hospital hours carrying tapers along Washington DC avenues, caissons for the killers and the killed, muffled drums beating for the assassins and the assassinated deformed and deformants clutching missing limbs to torn, open breasts hearth fires extinguished inside and out, taps signaling the dousing of campfires all along ravished battlefields, listen close and you can hear them, the tramp of the embalmed armies marching into twilight Time. Walt Whitman's Sickness of the Well "The doctors say my sickness is from having too deeply imbibed poison into my system from hospital." — Walt Whitman, 1864 Places of asylum are not the safest places to be in times of war such as these when diseases are flourishing as disinfectants, medical supplies against communicable diseases are rare, non-existent or unknown. This is how we, the well, acquire the sicknesses of dying and infirmity, how we come to emulate what cannot be cured. As we look into the faces of those who are no longer human, their lives stolen by pain, grief, illnesses beyond our knowing, we become as they are; something that cannot be saved. If we survive it will be worse than what they were made to endure a living hell. No mirror made by man will hold our reflections. Walt Whitman's Sacrificial Years The poet's scribbled caption beneath a period, studio photograph says, "Civil War Soldier," though this odd looking man wore a civilian's suit; seated on a chair by a dwarfing column, one that makes him appears somehow malformed: a protuberant forehead intense as Edgar Allan Poe eyes staring straight ahead, the kind of gaze that sees what no other man would and be glad of it, an intensity, one suspects, not applied to playing the guitar prop he is holding. Unlike the other keepsake portraits of men Whitman helped nurse back to health or eased from this world to another, this casualty wears no regimental colors, no stripes of rank but it is compelling for the long-after-the-decisive-battle wound, the incongruity of man and objects, but mostly for what is missing, the greater part of his left leg represented by a trouser rolled into a circle, a dark hole, a fatal gap bridging the points of what came after; an unassuageable pain and the near maddening insistence of the phantom limb. Walt Whitman, Phrenologist is justly famous for a time, his long, thin fingers described by those who felt them as: penetrating as pincers heated over a blacksmith's forge, his breath on the scalp, bare neck, as fierce as a bellows or hard, adamantine as sculpted stone fingers scraping the humps on the subject's head, wrenching out hidden spirits from tonsure tufts, cranial mounds black birds of death are hidden in awaiting just this sort of release or soft, supple fingers, tracing elliptical shapes of what rests beneath bone, drawing hemi- spheres to the surface as maps to unknowable worlds, as transcribed scores of symphonic scale reduced to one instrument only the phrenologist may play; some who had their fortune charted swear by the future foretold, all the blown glass embryos that lay scattered at his feet after, tiny monsters growing within the bulbs, each small world self-contained, better than no worlds at all, what was before. Others, though, felt an all- inclusive dark curtain slowly being drawn over their faces, then their bodies, their kin, suggesting a long string of breech births, one longer than MacDuff's interrupted, his knotted line, severed at the wrist, a whole lifetime of pain the only light the phrenologist allows in.
Cameron Scott
Fishing with Whitman With a cork handled rod he casts his line across the water like a giant eraser forgetting everything about his life. With a cork handled rod, water that fell as snow passes around his legs, and rocks turn over beneath his felt soled steps. His long white hair curls in the morning light tumbling from beneath his hat. Trout flee from his shadow and so he crouches down placing the fly on a side current watching it slowly carry beneath blades of overhanging grass. It isn't necessary to call sparrows by kneeling in silent prayer for they spin in currents of air above the hatching mayflies. But still he calls on them from a house of pine boughs, pressing his hand into the earth. And the day spreads across the fresh sheets of the wind. And he has searched a thousand rivers and will search a thousand more. The past is a wide open interpretation, this old man that smells of fish and sage crushed and swept into the pocket of his flannel shirt. I celebrate rivers, And what they are I have become. Every drop of water carries me onward. Often on the horizon I have smelled water Or heard, in the quiet evening, the rush of water over stone, And have drawn near upon my knees, parting the tall river grass Next to a heron, or parted the spring willows and been whisker to whisker With a beaver chewing on a soft green shoot. Beneath the ceiling of the dusky evening Stars appear in the quiet water, rings spread From rising trout, rippling a universe Where I have felt all things emerging, all things falling away. And though snow falls for the thousandth time, Henceforth I shall ask nothing more of the winter than for it to end. Give me the mud, give me the soft moist earth, until the underlying ice, ten inches deep, thaws into spring. Henceforth the snow shall come at night while I am asleep and steal away at dawn like the ghosts of all my lovers. From this river I love most that which does not come from heaven Though all things come from the river, and the river is where all things end.
Christina Manweller
His 3-Tined Life in the dark a migraineur works an alphabet of curtailment pelican in the Mojave : pinion pinned : prowless scull (a lark!) He will not give up. He cannot give up. Brother to Whitman and his feuding trees, he can't help himself. He works the sounds he shapes he plumbs The cicatrix on left temple a distinct point from which to depart, he takes hold the characters the interstices morphs, knits, alchemizes he spools it all back unzippered it takes wing taking wing it glimmers emboldened (ensorcled?) by his soaring syllabary the migraineur squints outward now he unfurls lifts off in a breviary of ascending consonant syllable vowel he pings! sings! scintillates! he and newborn tongue beat at pages they whip up a whole new world together driving outward to perfection thoroughly he comes down bled comes down on his back spent. He's shielded now folded up into a little turtle song. The anfractuous efforts not a lark —no, no a mercy! with Walt, he's unlocked a blest a glorious paradox oh stumbled upon a wordy savior so bless him bless him bless his scratched and scriven soul
Lawrence Upton
Sunday from light, Quaker Meeting for Worship Light burns within the tree outside, brightness entirely vision flaming from the roughly blown rain-wetted leaves, dazzling fire disquieting eyes; and thus one may have no certainty what kind of tree that is cut round into a standardised profile some time back, like a point of sale stand up. It's grown since with energy and now is origami, loose yet almost multiple in time something that makes things visible and affords an illumination. Here, some, in minds already blazing, would join their light to over-shine. Colour depends from light to which the organs of seeing react: wave corpuscular or else quantum phenomena... phenomenon. There are similar shapes we can't see. I feel it is a sensation produced by organ arousal rather than a radiance from source. This is a most candescent room whose state of equilibrium is being disturbed in the eyesight. I brighten even as rain hits at revelatory windows. I sense myself kindled and change state, quick, illustrious; when switched on, I see myself in some good light. Lichter. Wasser. Sonntagsgruß notes: Lines 14 and 15 owe something to Henry VI Part 3 Scene 2 Act 1 'Tis wondrous strange, the like yet never heard of. I think it cites us, brother, to the field, That we, the sons of brave Plantagenet, Each one already blazing by our meeds, Should notwithstanding join our lights together And over-shine the earth as this the world. The last line of the poem [Lights - Waters - Sunday Greeting] is the title of the first scene of Stockhausen's opera Sonntag aus licht from which I take my title.
Jeanetta Calhoun Mish
To Ask and Be Answered I am thinking of Walt Whitman because the lilac bush in the backyard is blooming, because its canes are swaying and rocking, swaying and rocking in the stiff spring breeze, because its uncomfortably sweet scent coming through my bedroom door smells like death, because I wish I could say kaddish for the April deaths of my grandfather and father and brother, because an unkindness of ravens has taken up residence among the flowering dead nettles and in their voices the chant of another whose visions invade my dreams. I am thinking of Walt Whitman because I have found myself lonely despite my desires, because yesterday I wandered in the supermarket with the ghosts of two venerable bards and envied their eloquence, because among my intimates I count four poets, four musicians, and an artist, all thirsty and true, because I want to embrace my lover but find myself driving him away with rage and venom, because I stood a long time last night gazing up at the moon and her beloved Venus dancing through the moist night-air gathering stars as souvenirs. I am thinking of Walt Whitman because there is a certain slant of sorrow in my heart that has transformed everything; because I am aching to be expansive, to embrace the world as it is, because I believe that loving the world in its wholeness might save me from melancholy, because I am convinced that in the refuge of his wisdom i will find equanimity because I am desperate for a reaching 'round of his lyrical arms, desiring to imagine myself sacred in his eyes, longing to ask and to be answered in affirmation, are you thinking of me, Walt Whitman?
from Work is Love Made Visible — U. of New Mexico Press (2009)

Kallima Hamilton
SPONTANEOUS AS ANY "Behaviour lawless as snow-flakes, words simple as grass" We are cloud flesh and athletic snow, we run hot and cold—yes—snowflakes turning into white lilacs, we drink pale blonde beer on sultry summer evenings, kiss like Eskimos nestling into moist fur patches—I touch you over & over, we become drunk on the green eyes of trees, delirious, happy—sustaining truth for hours til it is subsumed by BIGGER TRUTH— the beauty we find swallowing great bubbles of fresh air—oh—out in the open we turn, we frolic, we are little beasts in mud ponds, we sing and shine like purple finches, we annihilate egos, becoming our Self in this delicious void, we lick each other's citrus skin, paint the rolling hills with the pinkened bones of sunset, ride the electric rush down canyon walls. We go deep and far exploring, dip toes in the turquoise roil of the Santiam, skinnydipping beneath moss-dripping waterfalls, go high at altitude tripping on wee alpine flowers. Dizzy from both the tiny and the huge, we collapse into the miraculous overwhelm of being, this invisible yet palpable presence of pure bliss.
Paul Pines
So Long O thicker and faster— (So long!) O crowding too close upon me.. —Walt Whitman So long means Good-bye or It's been so long since I've seen you or will be so long before we meet again or the suggestion of unspecified duration so Sal was spreading mayonnaise on the mortadella while a young Puerto Rican stared at the knife and sang: Make it nice Make it nice Put a little more meat on that bread and we laughed because an April sun was turning everything in the Deli liquid gold and we were warm after a cold winter my 39th then Sal buttered me a roll poured a coffee to go and put them in a bag as the light struck me like the slap of a Zen Roshi and I realized it would be easier than I had thought to enter my 40's with a little dignity regardless of my circumstances so I told Sal So long, Sal, so long
from Taxidancing — Ikon (2007)

Nancy Flynn
Ode to the Past & Present Wilt of the Daisy, Bellis perennis, Pressed in The Illustrated Leaves of Grass, a June 1973 Graduation Gift from L. Thirty-eight years between verso and recto and only today I found your white- ray confetti, day's ease, dazey, flattened above a skinny-bent stem. Native of meadow, field, dump, I remember walking home after studying at L.'s and that patch, white like a constellation fallen across the rubble that plugged the abandoned Babylon Mine. L. whose father died when we were ten and her mother slow-dying of cancer so L. worked after school in the Frye Boot factory across the river to help pay the radiation bills. * Chaucer christened you "eye of the day"—half-crazy for the love of you, daisy, the way your head closes at night and rainy days but forever returns, open, reassurance at dawn. Your every petal's a flower and in your center flowers, too. You wilt all the others in the vase like Sophia Loren striding into the Oscars. Daisy, I still see you now: multitudes! * We were flower children in training too young to hitch to Woodstock so we buried our bras in that corner of Appalachia, tromped our own Yasgur's Farm midnights up the power lines for more gathering—mad, naked summer night— pot parties beside what would be "Chelsea Morning" fields of you, daisy, essence of innocence— Oh, we were far past that. L. had already balled (as we called it then) Joey Cunningham, seven years her senior, an ex-con-cum-drug-dealer. While I had Bob, too-many-to-tick-mark afternoons parking in the shadow of the slag heap up Vine Street—amazing the ways you can tangle two bodies, warm honey compost in the front seat of a Willys Jeep. * Speed the decades since we daisy-chained that necklace stem to stem to stem and donned, instead, our serious shoes. Like you, my circadian marguerite, I've endured— the parade of nights, one more dreaming girl who forgot we live the Riddle of the Sphinx. Snatched by the roots, every bunch of hopeful's withering soon. Once plucked, you had to be sacrificed, too. He loves me, he loves me not, he loves me, he loves me— knots to tie off any prayer of blossoming look in my face while I snuff the sidle of evening lies.
Aaron Anstett
Camden "From the eyesight proceeds another eyesight..." - Whitman Say we Google Earth then zoom and zoom until pixels blur and I confuse outsized flecks for the infinite's distillate, with which our every cell's suffused. Say I long to leave my brain to pseudoscience, yearn to marry the very air as I hoped but failed to in his last residence on the unkempt block, car in flames outside on asphalt, plywood board over door next door, men still sleeping on stoops when I left, walking fast past the county jail. Dear Ineffable, What brazen declarative about the world in general at last says it, that on which the mind alights, momentarily placid and well-lit?
from Insofar as Heretofore — Backwater Press (2014)

Joy Ladin
Bourgeois Epic I lost track of how many children were starving. It was a big country, a long century, there was so much and so many. At first I read the headlines, then only opinion pages. I wasn't interested in suffering itself, I wanted to know what important strangers said about it. I wanted to eat ice cream without worrying why vanilla tastes of sexual harassment or why my fingers felt so sticky even before I licked. Then it was ten years later, twenty, time gathered like iron filings around a magnet, sometimes in the shape of roses, sometimes horsemen of apocalypse. Sometimes I knew we would be okay. Sometimes I knew I didn't want to know who I mean by "we." I only sometimes felt my whiteness, my money, but I was always grateful when strangers didn't look at me with hatred. I dumped carbon freely into the atmosphere, I had to go and wanted to go and go and go I did. A few lives depended on mine. Billions and billions didn't. I rubbed conditioner into my tragic flaws, loved and lost and tried to deserve the little heavens that descended now and then on sunny days as I threaded my way between strollers, sandwich boards, and homeless strangers' legs.
Eileen Moeller
Moonlight Calving They say those who begin under moonlight give the richest milk. A cow lies down in the field when it's her time. You're summoned out of warm bed into the damp, the clover underfoot. The shepherds were drawn by a star, but here in these rolling fields, all silvered and shadowed, you've come because of a phone call. There are no choirs singing. All you hear is the lowing of one in need of relief. You will be her annunciation, her benediction as you reach up inside her and pull as hard as you can. **** But the writer worries. Who cares that they have to be yanked out? And it hurts, goddamn it, that she's full of a rage she knows no one wants to hear about. It' s messier than she ever could have imagined. Don' t look away in embarrassment, though She delivers, she does eventually. As she cleans it up, you'll see, the thing will develop a presence. This tender scaffolding of words still too wobbly to stand, curls on the moonlit page fresh from its difficult birth, **** For the sake of argument why not say it is also effortless: akin to Jell-O setting if Jell-O suddenly set and came alive. One minute there is moonlight. Well, we call it light, but really it is nothing even remotely resembling true light: the white of sunlight with its hidden waves of color. This is light reflected from a body curving toward another body. An ethereal whiteness slowly solidifies in a field, comes alive as a newborn calf bleating for its mother and we feel the milk of its yearning, the nuzzle of one who is grateful to be found. When The Mirror Turns Back Into Water Called by the scent of rain in the air, I never expected to see it lying like a strange pearl in the grass next to the Koi pond. At first I thought it was dead but when I leaned down the tiny gills were moving slow and patient: its will to leap translated into waiting. I winced as I picked it up, its body firm and narrow, slippery but too weak to squirm Like a sudden breath, it slid from my open hands back to the blessing of cool fluidity, tilting and wobbling at first, but soon soothed by the water, lulled back into its silent bliss. And now I can put my hands into that water and the fish swim around unafraid. ***** One time I dreamed my parents had been reborn as two red fish swimming around a dim pool inside my ribcage. This is the place where the tears well up and never spill over, the map, I pulled out of the dark of my lower back, spoken in two voices: Work hard. Be kind. Follow the road without flinching. See what we can't see. Be the one who bears witness. ***** In Canton, they say it was the Yellow Emperor who repulsed the invading people of the mirror, sending them back into their own world, sealing them in and forcing them to repeat, as if in a dream, all of our actions, no matter how trivial or perverse. And don't many of us still see a silver fish, every now and then, shifting and swimming deep in the mirrored world that bathes us in light? And might that fish leap out at us some day when we least expect it, when the mirror turns back into water? They say on that day we'll be given the chance to try to hold on to our slippery souls. ***** Is this what Narcissus was trying to do? Was he waiting for his true self to leap out so he could finally come to know it? Or was he confused, as a woman might be, seeing a wrinkled face in the mirror, when she feels like a girl who's about to crawl into the hollow of a honeysuckle bush, to try to get the bees to say her name? Did he catch a glimpse every once in a while of his soul muscling through clear velvet and dappled sunlight? Or did he pine away because the mirror was empty? ***** The air is pregnant with rain and holding back its birth, while I swim searching for rescue from the din of a world that never stops to listen. I have always been a fish out of water, soothed and lulled by small acts like these: the quickening of an animal like a flower unfolding, words leaping through the mind's murk, an woman unclenching her fists so the bees can light on her palm.
Michele Battiste
Peaches ". . . in China regarded as the source of the ambrosia of life which gave gods their immortality." - The Women's Encyclopedia of Myths and Legends If Whitman didn't think peaches salvational, he sensed passage and ritual when nursing the wounded from Hooker's battles in 1863: peaches for Bed 13, Ward J peaches for Noah Laing, Ward I Sticky fingers and lips with which to pry open the gates to sleep or healing I couldn't keep from fondling the lovely seams of summer's first bounty, refusing to bruise or bite through skin; I knew the juice would run It was enough, more, to cup the fruit in my hand, to trace the cleft And Whitman held the hands of dying men, kissed them on their lips and necks and shoulders, loving the wounded parts of them, loving the well-formed parts of them, loving thousands of solitary, suffering men like brothers and giving them peaches I ate, of course, until my teeth scraped clean the stone And Whitman, for Williams, Bed 41, Ward G, who suffered much "some peaches don't forget"
Whitman's way I may not be the scholar to make my case, but—I propose (though in ever shifting proportions) all cultures from all times are fundamentally the same in this way: Each has its poets/artists/seers who have a distinctive voice, stand outside the norm, have balls, are censored and perhaps ignored, hated or even slaughtered by the mainstream—possibly rejected by their own kind. It's sometimes difficult to remember that Walt Whitman, now held up as the darling of American poetry, was once cast aside as one of those dreadful weirdos. During an age of literary conservatism, Whitman boldly portrayed sex sensually and scorned the courteous, somewhat constipated formality of his time when he wrote: I press with slow rude muscle I brace myself effectually, I listen to no entreaties, I dare not withdraw till I deposit what has so long accumulated within me. It's all relative, isn't it, where any given culture draws its lines. Many scholars attribute such writings of outsiders to courage. I contend that courage is little more than lack of fear for pressing ahead upon one's convictions. Artists tell us about history. Whitman, living in a boring and homogenous culture, was a precursor of the pack, as any great artist must be. He took risks with downright sexy passages which remain, not oblique to my eye, but, well, utterly sexy today. Dig this Whitman passage: A visit to the garden ditch? …Unclench your floodgates, you are too much for me. He speaks of "touch." You villain touch! what are you doing? My breath is tight in its throat, Unclench your floodgates, you are too much for me. Blind loving wrestling touch, sheath'd hooded sharp-tooth'd touch! How positively embedded. Blatant. Is it any wonder this fleshy Bohemian was cast aside by the staid literati of his day? Right now, all my urges indicate that we are no longer appalled, nor necessarily turned on or off by, most sexual language (except those on the extreme religious right—and I often wonder if they are as appalled as they pretend), so we breeze right past it. In a poem, it simply is the addition of colorful but formerly forbidden language to advance the "picture." So we're only faced with the simple question: What else is the poem about? In seeking the impetus for the use of explicit language in my own work, I look back to the 40s and the whisper of Mrs. W. behind my back into my mother's ear to announce that she was uhhh… pregnant. It made no sense to me as an eight-year old, given that I had just assisted my father in lambings by more than one hundred ewes in death defying below-zero weather. I knew where babies came from. And I always felt embarrassed as a kid at my father's churchy, pink-faced embarrassment when his male friend's used the word, hell, in my presence. Fast forward to 1989. The first word I expressed outside the hospital room after my father's doctor informed me that he, only seconds before, had perished: Fuck! I shouted: His most despised word. And I'm certain if he was hovering above, he was not at all surprised at my choice of words. He'd come to expect it of me in my adult years. Now—2008. Me: His queer son, a poet. Of late, wondering if my father had ever read Walt Whitman—I don't know. I was not a poet when he was alive. We had never talked of poetry. And I wonder if Whitman were alive today, would he weave explicit language into his poems? Would he say Fuck! upon learning of the death of his father—or, better yet, the death of a lover? In his brilliance, I certainly do not find him cowering in the cause of dignity. He was a rebel. And so, by nature, am I. I lack his genius. But not his passion, as in his lines: Perfect and clean the genitals previously jetting, and perfect and clean the womb cohering, The head well grown and proportioned and plumb,… In theory, having bounced my premise off several revered colleagues who know well the work of Whitman, the answer comes up: Yes, he would be likely to use the explicit words of today, taking care to write aesthetically pleasing lines. And he might love the first fifteen minutes of the bawdy atmosphere of a Slam Poetry session, but quickly find himself bored by the bullshit of it Before an attentive audience of Pueblo poets, I performed one of my more ornery poems; ornery because it takes an unpredictable twist in its fourth stanza (which happens not to be explicit in language). Humor of the twist aside, its lines are written intentionally and with an ear for aesthetic movement. I delivered it with characteristic passion, holding Whitman in mind—genuinely believing he might have applauded it if he were there, (second and third "explicit" stanzas below, "twist" stanza not included). he plugs me through the night makes me believe he needs me moans words of heat i starve to hear & when he splits i'm memorably riveted ass tingling like a twinkling star moustache fragrant with his second load sheets drenched with his third my mattress bursting with the wildness of his air There I stood in the old Union Depot in Pueblo's Old Historic District, during this age where increasingly large chunks of primetime TV are occupied by mega-funded adsters hawking products from detergents to lawn fertilizer masterfully geared to appeal to our most base and prurient psyches. In this age when primetime is rife with women of all ages who all but bare their nipples in unlikely situations, (churches, school board meetings, funerals, on Wall Street), where frequent and nearly blatant sexual vernacular is the norm rather than the exception, where queerness is often presented without prejudice—suddenly, castigation arose from within ranks of that audience of local poets about my frequent use of "explicit" language during my performances; apparently, secretive protests were made about my distasteful appearance; I was dis-invited from appearing there again! Yet I'd envisioned Whitman wearing old Levis and a faded blue denim shirt like mine—standing at my side, egging me on. Outraged by my dis-invitation? You bet your sweet ass! Old Walt likely would have said: "Fuck this shit, dude. Let's get loaded." But wait…I'd not even used the word fuck in my poem. Well, maybe in my intro, IF I had used it, it might have been in deference to the day my father died. You know, like: I dedicate my life and use of language to my late father… ~ I've been bedding down with Whitman of late—not for sex of course. I am too old and weary for his taste. But as I lay me down to sleep, for the comfort I milk nightly from these, his exquisite words: Camerado, this is no book, Who touches this touches a man, (Is it night? Are we here together alone?) It is I you hold and who holds you, I spring from the pages into your arms… Ohhh, give it to me, Walty, yeahhhh….

M. L. Weber
an excerpt from "Beautiful Thing" I look out on piles of sheet metal and pvc pipe chain-link fence, tin sheds, trucks broken in half and men hulking between machines . activity on an agar dish, cross-hairs sighted on a mote of dust the legs of men useful for toting pollutants. There is a man who won't go home, stays around after closing then hangs around the grocery-gas store up the corner "Beautiful thing" murdered in our lives without knowing who you were without hearing of you empty as skulls the woman with the broken nose I have seen her buy life insurance because her ex-husband has tried to kill her To hear an incoherent stammer, watch a man fall off his knees as he leans forward in the new bus station they play Muzak with saxophones and fuel the buses with long umbilical cords men in white turtlenecks point at the underwear on display in Kitty's Photography Parlor window in a closed-off street merchants host a wine-tasting fair a bum with plastic bags tied over his shoes skips around on the pavement like a clown in a parade to the music of the open air orchestra To be thus confined while the roaring occurs and the thunder rolls down from heaven illicit love and timing your orgasm not taking too long for she must be home soon and the semen is easily detectable if she is not careful and the feeling of repulsion from the sex of one you have loved before enjoyed for years the routine of pleasure that was yours now nothing more than mercy Being related to all innate matters flown above the tellurian concerns which have little to do with wonder await to be awake without lessening the power I am cast into the night a barrel dropped into mid-ocean or else I ask to be born but am denied the pleasure-pain only the form of the mind can make conversation and it does it in terms of the flow inside if you speak you are born and in being born the two dimensional plan revolves, its line of axis divides you Death, not different from living, thought broken by the spaces where I have no thought, by the fragments that thought is You never are there, but only collections brought about by short chains of memory which by their intersections build up waves of charge which flow over the brain throughout the emotive body and the feeling of feeding upon yourself sustains the illusion of continuity as a man who is on the phone to India yells in Hindi and wakes me up at 3 in the morning because the phone is on my floor he can speak faster than I have ever heard anyone speak . in between full minutes of contiguous speech he interjects a fast "HELLO?"

(note: this gathering is on-going - for details see SugarMule.com, page 2)