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“As I walked along that path,

I felt drawn from myself, elated, struck stupidly good for a moment by the extravagant beauty of the world. The air was thick with movement, butterflies and day moths and also, hanging iridescent in the sun, tiny ephemerae shining and embalmed, pushed helplessly here and there by the light breeze. The grasses and trees were releasing in a great exhalation pods of seeds, the tiny grains each sheltered and propelled by a tuft of hair like a parachute or umbrella. I thought, as I watched this sowing of the earth, of Whitman, whose poems I had just taught to the students who were listening now to their lectures on mathematical linguistics, which they would recount to me over dinner in the town, telling me how they imagined my reactions to the arguments made about poetry and the structures of meter and rhyme, their numerical claims on our pleasure. There were lines in Whitman’s poems that had always struck me as exaggerated in their enthusiasm, their unhinged eroticism; they embarrassed me a little, though my students loved them, greeting them each year with laughter. It was those lines that came to me as I stood on that path in Blagoevgrad, watching seeds come down like snow, that defined and enriched that moment. What were those seeds if not the wind’s soft-tickling genitals, the world’s procreant urge, and I realized I had always read them poorly, the lines I had failed to understand; they weren’t exaggerated at all, they were exact, and for a moment I understood his desire to be naked before the world, his madness, as he says, to be in contact with it. I even felt something of that desire myself, though it was nothing like madness for me, in my life lived almost always beneath the pitch of poetry, a life of inhibition and missed chances, perhaps, but also a bearable life, a life that to some extent I had chosen and continued to choose.”

What Belongs to You, Garth Greenwell, pp. 32-33

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