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Mark Olival-Bartley studied applied linguistics at Hawaii Pacific University, attaining B.A. and M.A. degrees in TESOL, and poetry at the City College of New York. He is now anatomizing the prosody of E. A. Robinson’s sonnets for his dissertation at Amerika Institut of LMU Munich, where also he edits a poetry weekly. His poems and translations have appeared in journals on both sides of the Atlantic. He is the resident poet at EcoHealth, where his science-themed verse is regularly featured, and a senior copyeditor of Review of International American Studies.


Song of Myself

by Walt Whitman


The negro holds firmly the reins of his four horses, the block swags underneath on its tied-over chain, 
The negro that drives the long dray of the stone-yard, steady and tall he stands pois’d on one leg on the string-piece, 
His blue shirt exposes his ample neck and breast and loosens over his hip-band, 
His glance is calm and commanding, he tosses the slouch of his hat away from his forehead, 
The sun falls on his crispy hair and mustache, falls on the black of his polish’d and perfect limbs. 

I behold the picturesque giant and love him, and I do not stop there, 
I go with the team also. 

In me the caresser of life wherever moving, backward as well as forward sluing, 
To niches aside and junior bending, not a person or object missing, 
Absorbing all to myself and for this song. 

Oxen that rattle the yoke and chain or halt in the leafy shade, what is that you express in your eyes? 
It seems to me more than all the print I have read in my life. 

My tread scares the wood-drake and wood-duck on my distant and day-long ramble, 
They rise together, they slowly circle around. 

I believe in those wing’d purposes, 
And acknowledge red, yellow, white, playing within me, 
And consider green and violet and the tufted crown intentional, 
And do not call the tortoise unworthy because she is not something else, 
And the jay in the woods never studied the gamut, yet trills pretty well to me, 
And the look of the bay mare shames silliness out of me.

Note:  A recitation can be heard here.

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