In Walt Whitman’s Bedroom


No photos, the tour guide warns.
It is just this college intern and me
on a long gray locks of a day,
standing next to Whitman’s bed,
the real one, not a replica, he recites.

I burn to capture images of his boots,
the paintings on his walls,
a green leather-bound copy of Leaves of Grass,
the piles of paper on a table by a window.
I want to sit down on his narrow bed
where he died in this same month of March.
But the boy watches me carefully.
Other visitors have tried to do the same.

Just one? I ask. He shakes his head.
I look out Walt’s window and linger as long as I can.
I am the only one who stopped by today,
and it is time to close. He says
I should not be in Camden after dark.

Outside, on the fake cobblestones,
I take all the photos I want.
I look up at his window one last time.
Walt was a sick old man when he lived here.
He revised his verse for the last time.
Yawped one final mighty yawp.

The boy locks Walt’s door behind him
and runs across the boulevard to the station.
I get in my car and drive around the block,
where rows of half-burned and boarded-up houses
remind me that Whitman would have found
someone here to celebrate, too.


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