Whitman was a tourist too

This city is all tastes and sounds,
the beat of wheels on tracks, doors opening
and closing, that struggles up from under concrete
to pick at your veins with dirty fingertips—
in your mouth the garbage and perfume
and oil and sweat and urine and car exhaust
and concrete and rain cozen each other—
while you, crazed in a strange land, wander
wild under the patchwork sky,
hemmed in by the height of the buildings.
All on your own you are stellar, astronomical,
orbiting the many works of men’s hands
with your own ellipsis, building a noiseless tune
of pounding, searching, a trek
that might be months or minutes long,
letting the city grub its palms on you.
Oh but the next day there is still more
to be found, more doorways and cafes and
more streetlights to shelter under,
more images of flesh and stone to store away.
The sun in its path cannot deter you,
can only provide the impetus to get up and out
and the light to see, to search,
when two feet and two eyes and sweat
are all you have ever needed to be alive.

Elaine Schleiffer is a writer and poet living in Cleveland, OH. Her work has been published in or is forthcoming in Stylus, Ultraviolet’s Purple Poetry Journal, and Pudding Magazine.

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