Emily to Walt
by Ralph La Rosa
O vatic Walt, you loom so large—
A One-Man multitude—
An Ark—an overflowing Barge
O Walt of whitecaps, Waves of Words—
My Quaint small vessels, tightly
Measured, sail in minor worlds,
But yours—through cyclones—Mighty.
O Skipper Walt! You sing of bathers—
Lovers and beloved—
Frolicking near sandy shores,
All welcomed—none refused.
O Walt, who shouts the Yes of Being
From your Mainmast’s top—
I can’t contain my Querying
Barbaric Yawp: Walt self-described
Walt to Emily
by Ralph La Rosa
O Emily, anomaly!
You sing There is no frigate like a book,
And, Exultation is the going / Of an inland soul to sea!
Please climb aboard the good ship Whitman. . . .
Set sail from home. . . .
My Song of Myself your chart and sextant.
Though recluse you have, methinks, imagined Wild nights!
In roiling seas. . . .
When your life had stood a loaded gun?
Load your lungs with earth and sun to yelp and yawp
Of cherished freedoms. . . .
Shoot truth straight, not at a slant!
You survey what I see, my macroscopic views. . . .
Your microscopic lens! My ocean is your dusty pond. . . .
Is that gaze a squint?
Closer I approach you, Em. . . .
Breathing into, warming ears,
Teasing, whispering, “With widened eyes, you’d see the oceanic
Swells and surges. . . .feel Spirit pulsing, pummeling our senses.”
Ah, you note my eight and twenty bathers, fine young men. . . .
Are you, Sweet Emily-of-empathy, the twenty-ninth? Splashing, frolicking
Intermingling limbs with us. . . .
But dry behind your cabin’s porthole?
Brave the floods of flesh. . . .waves of blood, currents of souls,
Submerge, merge, emerge. . . .
See that my craft, like yours, is true.
Hear me. Dive in and play.
I will exult in you. . . .
Walt uses frequent ellipsis only in the 1st edition of Leaves of Grass, 1855.
Except for Walt’s title, all in italics are Emily’s words.