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Or may-be one who meets all my grand assumptions and egotisms with derision,

Or may-be one who is puzzled at me.

As if I were not puzzled at myself!

Or as if I never deride myself! (O conscience struck! O self-convicted!)

Or as if I do not secretly love strangers! (O tenderly, a long time, and never avow it;)

Or as if I did not see, perfectly well, interior in myself, the stuff of wrong-doing,

Or as if it could cease transpiring from me until it must cease.

Walt Whitman

Calamus #16

Leaves of Grass (1860)


* * *


Part One


1 – Port Forward, Starboard Back


On the river the air was sharp and cold, smelling of mud and peat. The current drew me southward, downstream. The oars pulled easily. Brown water swirled away from the blades and, whispering, fell in on itself. Ahead of me, pennants of mist waved skyward; behind me, above my small wake, they scattered toward the riverbanks.

A pocked buttress of concrete—the Lake Street Bridge—stretched high above me. Traffic between Minneapolis and Saint Paul—light traffic, this early on a Sunday—whirred and thumped across the bridge.

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