Rubber Meets The Road

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Smooth pavement, silent running,
Easy driving. Bang!
Another retread bites the road.

— Trucker Poet


Where Rubber Meets The Road and Walt Whitman

Published in 1918 by Doubleday, Page & Company, The Patriotic Poems of Walt Whitman has four sections: Poems of War, Poems of After-War, Poems of America, and Poems of Democracy. The War for Whitman was the American Civil War, which he saw first-hand while tending wounded soldiers in DC hospitals. These poems are as relevant today as they were in his time.

Thick-Sprinkled Bunting

    Thick-sprinkled bunting! flag of stars!
    Long yet your road, fateful flag--long yet your road, and lined with
          bloody death,
    For the prize I see at issue at last is the world,
    All its ships and shores I see interwoven with your threads greedy
          banner;
    Dream'd again the flags of kings, highest borne, to flaunt unrival'd?
    O hasten flag of man--O with sure and steady step, passing highest
          flags of kings,
    Walk supreme to the heavens mighty symbol--run up above them all,
    Flag of stars! thick-sprinkled bunting!


O Captain! My Captain!

    O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,
    The ship has weather'd every rack, the prize we sought is won,
    The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
    While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;
          But O heart! heart! heart!
            O the bleeding drops of red,
              Where on the deck my Captain lies,
                Fallen cold and dead.

    O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
    Rise up--for you the flag is flung--for you the bugle trills,
    For you bouquets and ribbon'd wreaths--for you the shores a-crowding,
    For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
          Here Captain! dear father!
            This arm beneath your head!
              It is some dream that on the deck,
                You've fallen cold and dead.

    My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still,
    My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will,
    The ship is anchor'd safe and sound, its voyage closed and done,
    From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won;
          Exult O shores, and ring O bells!
            But I with mournful tread,
              Walk the deck my Captain lies,
                Fallen cold and dead.

Year That Trembled and Reel’d Beneath Me

    Year that trembled and reel'd beneath me!
    Your summer wind was warm enough, yet the air I breathed froze me,
    A thick gloom fell through the sunshine and darken'd me,
    Must I change my triumphant songs? said I to myself,
    Must I indeed learn to chant the cold dirges of the baffled,
    And sullen hymns of defeat?

Eighteen-Wheeler Scammed

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Container port duty, life-sucking maelstrom.
Eighteen-hour days, deeper in debt, my eighteen-wheeler is not my own.
Slip the yoke, screw the bloke, hammer-down home!

— Trucker Poet


Walt Whitman Eighteen-Wheeler Scammed

To the ancient Greeks, an eidolon was a spirit-image of a living or dead person. Modern dictionaries define the eidolon as either 1) an idealized person or thing, or 2) a specter or phantom. The 2013 SF video game Warframe declares eidolons to be “simple-minded, spectral fragments of the shattered Sentients that roam the Plains of Eidolon at night.”

However, you define your eidolon, consider how Walt Whitman used the word in this view of life and the universe.

Eidolons

       I met a seer,
  Passing the hues and objects of the world,
  The fields of art and learning, pleasure, sense,
       To glean eidolons.

       Put in thy chants said he,
  No more the puzzling hour nor day, nor segments, parts, put in,
  Put first before the rest as light for all and entrance-song of all,
       That of eidolons.

       Ever the dim beginning,
  Ever the growth, the rounding of the circle,
  Ever the summit and the merge at last, (to surely start again,)
       Eidolons! eidolons!

       Ever the mutable,
  Ever materials, changing, crumbling, re-cohering,
  Ever the ateliers, the factories divine,
       Issuing eidolons.

       Lo, I or you,
  Or woman, man, or state, known or unknown,
  We seeming solid wealth, strength, beauty build,
       But really build eidolons.

       The ostent evanescent,
  The substance of an artist's mood or savan's studies long,
  Or warrior's, martyr's, hero's toils,
       To fashion his eidolon.

       Of every human life,
  (The units gather'd, posted, not a thought, emotion, deed, left out,)
  The whole or large or small summ'd, added up,
       In its eidolon.

       The old, old urge,
  Based on the ancient pinnacles, lo, newer, higher pinnacles,
  From science and the modern still impell'd,
       The old, old urge, eidolons.

       The present now and here,
  America's busy, teeming, intricate whirl,
  Of aggregate and segregate for only thence releasing,
       To-day's eidolons.

       These with the past,
  Of vanish'd lands, of all the reigns of kings across the sea,
  Old conquerors, old campaigns, old sailors' voyages,
       Joining eidolons.

       Densities, growth, facades,
  Strata of mountains, soils, rocks, giant trees,
  Far-born, far-dying, living long, to leave,
       Eidolons everlasting.

       Exalte, rapt, ecstatic,
  The visible but their womb of birth,
  Of orbic tendencies to shape and shape and shape,
       The mighty earth-eidolon.

       All space, all time,
  (The stars, the terrible perturbations of the suns,
  Swelling, collapsing, ending, serving their longer, shorter use,)
       Fill'd with eidolons only.

       The noiseless myriads,
  The infinite oceans where the rivers empty,
  The separate countless free identities, like eyesight,
       The true realities, eidolons.

       Not this the world,
  Nor these the universes, they the universes,
  Purport and end, ever the permanent life of life,
       Eidolons, eidolons.

       Beyond thy lectures learn'd professor,
  Beyond thy telescope or spectroscope observer keen, beyond all mathematics,
  Beyond the doctor's surgery, anatomy, beyond the chemist with his chemistry,
       The entities of entities, eidolons.

       Unfix'd yet fix'd,
  Ever shall be, ever have been and are,
  Sweeping the present to the infinite future,
       Eidolons, eidolons, eidolons.

       The prophet and the bard,
  Shall yet maintain themselves, in higher stages yet,
  Shall mediate to the Modern, to Democracy, interpret yet to them,
       God and eidolons.

       And thee my soul,
  Joys, ceaseless exercises, exaltations,
  Thy yearning amply fed at last, prepared to meet,
       Thy mates, eidolons.

       Thy body permanent,
  The body lurking there within thy body,
  The only purport of the form thou art, the real I myself,
       An image, an eidolon.

       Thy very songs not in thy songs,
  No special strains to sing, none for itself,
  But from the whole resulting, rising at last and floating,
       A round full-orb'd eidolon.


Jake Brakes Shouting Out Loud

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Jake brakes popping, slashing cool night air,
Echoing across the sleeping valley.
Gear down, good buddy, gear down.

— Trucker Poet


Walt Whitman’s Jake Brakes

His words remind me of jake brakes sounding miles away. Punctuated, they seek attention, but distance softens their urgent calls. So Walt Whitman punctuates his words, gently guiding my attention to those things that to me are like water to a fish, but which benefit from closer inspection.

In his poems, Whitman defines America and the place of history in all things. He calls to all of us: take action to right the wrongs besieging so many others who are less fortunate than us. These are topics laced together, inseparably intertwined, as each of us is with everyone else. Civilization requires society. Society requires cooperation. Cooperation is the natural human condition. All else is fantasy and folly.

To Foreign Lands

I heard that you ask’d for something to prove this puzzle the New World,
And to define America, her athletic Democracy,
Therefore I send you my poems that you behold in them what you wanted.


To a Historian

You who celebrate bygones,
Who have explored the outward, the surfaces of the races, the life that has exhibited itself,
Who have treated of man as the creature of politics, aggregates, rulers and priests,
I, habitan of the Alleghanies, treating of him as he is in himself in his own rights,
Pressing the pulse of the life that has seldom exhibited itself,
(the great pride of man in himself,)
Chanter of Personality, outlining what is yet to be,
I project the history of the future.

What Place Is Besieged?

What place is besieged, and vainly tries to raise the siege?
Lo, I send to that place a commander, swift, brave, immortal,
And with him horse and foot, and parks of artillery,
And artillery-men, the deadliest that ever fired gun.

Come Ride With Me

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Ride with me for a day.
We’ll sing the open road
Onward beyond forever.

— Trucker Poet


Walt Whitman

I consider him the greatest nineteenth-century poet. He was also an essayist and journalist. Walt Whitman traveled some in his life and more-so in his poetry. Reading his works, I often hear him say “Come ride with me.”

On Journeys Through the States

On journeys through the States we start,
(Ay through the world, urged by these songs,
Sailing henceforth to every land, to every sea,)
We willing learners of all, teachers of all, and lovers of all.

We have watch’d the seasons dispensing themselves and passing on,
And have said, Why should not a man or woman do as much as the
seasons, and effuse as much?

We dwell a while in every city and town,
We pass through Kanada, the North-east, the vast valley of the
Mississippi, and the Southern States,
We confer on equal terms with each of the States,
We make trial of ourselves and invite men and women to hear,
We say to ourselves, Remember, fear not, be candid, promulge the
body and the soul,
Dwell a while and pass on, be copious, temperate, chaste, magnetic,
And what you effuse may then return as the seasons return,
And may be just as much as the seasons.


To a Certain Cantatrice

Here, take this gift,
I was reserving it for some hero, speaker, or general,
One who should serve the good old cause, the great idea, the
progress and freedom of the race,
Some brave confronter of despots, some daring rebel;
But I see that what I was reserving belongs to you just as much as to any.

The Ship Starting

Lo, the unbounded sea,
On its breast a ship starting, spreading all sails, carrying even
her moonsails.
The pennant is flying aloft as she speeds she speeds so stately–
below emulous waves press forward,
They surround the ship with shining curving motions and foam.