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Zelda's Inferno exercise: justify Walt Whitman

Tonight's Zelda's Inferno exercise: justify Walt Whitman

looking back to you, Uncle Walt
trying to see your America
in the faces I pass on the street

you wrote but a word here, a line there
and left the rest to us
but I don't know if I'm up to the job, Uncle Walt

I stand with my sleeves rolled up, my hat cocked upon my head
like in that photo of you from the first edition of Leaves of Grass
I can get the look, sure
(the young Walt look, I'm still decades away from the good gray poet thing)
I can get the look but not the sound

They all want to sound like you, Uncle Walt
They make the schoolkids imitate what is the grass
Imitation is the sincerest form of suffocation
They certainly never have the schoolkids imitate the poet of sexuality
In classrooms, "A child asked me what is the grass" --
never "City of Orgies"

They've watered you down, Uncle Walt
Homogenized and nationalized you
Pretended you were respectable
Covered your poetry with a fig leaf in their shame

But we will restore you, Uncle Walt
We won't let the bland ones have you
We remember your America
Here and there we keep your spark alive
a poetic underground
the roots of your Leaves
preserved for another season

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