from Garth Greenwell's novel, What Belongs to You
There were lines in Whitman's poems that had always struck me as exaggerated in their enthusiasm, their unhinged eroticism; they embarrassed me a little, though my students loved them, greeting them each year with laughter. It was these lines that came to me as I stood on that path in Blagoevgrad, watching seeds come down like snow, that defined and enriched that moment. What were those seeds if not the wind's soft-tickling genitals, the world's procreant urge, and I realized I had always read them poorly, the lines I had failed to understand: they weren't exaggerated at all, they were exact, and for a moment I understood his desire to be naked before the world, his madness, as he says, to be in contact with it. I even felt something of that desire myself, though it was nothing like madness for me, in my life lived almost always beneath the pitch of poetry, a life of inhibition and missed chances, perhaps, but also a bearable life, a life that to some extent I had chosen and continued to choose.
* * *
from Walt Whitman's "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry"
It is not upon you alone the dark patches fall,
The dark threw its patches down upon me also,
The best I had done seem’d to me blank and suspicious,
My great thoughts as I supposed them, were they not in reality meagre?
Nor is it you alone who know what it is to be evil,
I am he who knew what it was to be evil,
I too knitted the old knot of contrariety,
Blabb’d, blush’d, resented, lied, stole, grudg’d,
Had guile, anger, lust, hot wishes I dared not speak,
Was wayward, vain, greedy, shallow, sly, cowardly, malignant,
The wolf, the snake, the hog, not wanting in me,
The cheating look, the frivolous word, the adulterous wish, not wanting,
Refusals, hates, postponements, meanness, laziness, none of these wanting,
Was one with the rest, the days and haps of the rest,
Was call’d by my nighest name by clear loud voices of young men as they saw me approaching or passing,
Felt their arms on my neck as I stood, or the negligent leaning of their flesh against me as I sat,
Saw many I loved in the street or ferry-boat or public assembly, yet never told them a word,
Lived the same life with the rest, the same old laughing, gnawing, sleeping,
Play’d the part that still looks back on the actor and actress,
The same old role, the role that is what we make it, as great as we like,
Or as small as we like, or both great and small.