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Whitman among the Baptists

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Whitman Among the Baptists

Bi Janus

“What a friend we have in …”

With own eyes level

between heaven and hell

the boy finds his eyes

in the back of the hall.

Easing against the wall,

water drips from his linen shirt

fresh from some baptismal font.

Both hear the crowd’s voices,

raised as one, rattle

the metal folding chairs,

as, eyes closed and faces

turned toward heaven,

it searches for Him —

it could only be Him.

Bird song over the drooping sun,

beards and loose joints,

muscles and sweat smell

break the spell

as the boy pulls his arm

over his own shoulder, shelter

from the believers’ fears,

his needs too close

under his skin, pressing

against crowd conscience,

pulling him away from Him

toward him.

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Yes! As he sang it himself:

'Divine am I inside and out, and I make holy whatever I touch or am touch’d from,/ The scent of these arm-pits aroma finer than prayer,/ This head more than churches, bibles, and all the creeds.'

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