Friendship and Loving Touch

I will sing the song of companionship,
Friendship is the good old word—the love of my fellow-men—
I perceive it waits, and has been always waiting, latent in all men.
If any of my works shall survive it will be the fellowship in it.

I have perceiv’d that to be with those I like is enough—it is just comfort enough to be together,
To stop in company with the rest at evening is enough,
To be surrounded by beautiful, curious, breathing, laughing flesh is enough.
There is something in staying close to men and women and looking on them,
And in the contact and odor of them, that pleases the soul well;
All things please the soul, but these please the soul well—
Now I care not to walk the earth unless a friend walk by my side.

I know what it is to receive the passionate love of many friends,
Never losing old friends and finding new ones every day of my life—
Joys of the dear companions, and of the merry word and laughing face,
These eyes and ears that like some broad parterre bloom up around, before me.

The curious attachment of young men to me,
My brood of grown and part-grown tough boys accompanying me,

Who love to be with no one else so well as they love to be with me,
By day to work with me, and by night to sleep with me.
Onward we move, a gay gang of blackguards!
The laugh sounds out, with mirth-shouting music and wild-flapping pennants of joy!
Twenty-eight young men and all so friendly,
With a wonderful tenacity of friendship, and passionate fondness for their friends,
(They never give words to their most ardent friendships,)
Ready with life or death for a friend,
And always a manly readiness to make friends.

All day I have walked the city and talked with my friends,
Called by name by the clear prompt voices of my friends as they saw me passing or approaching,
Felt their arms on my neck as I stood, or the negligent leaning of their flesh against me,
Comrade of all who shake hands and welcome to drink and meat.
The spirits of dear friends dead or alive, thicker they come, a great crowd,
Some walk by my side and some behind, and some embrace my arms or neck,
And I in the middle, my right and left arms round the sides of two friends—
I do not ask any more delight, I swim in it as in a sea.

I dream’d in a dream I saw a city invincible to the attacks of the whole of the rest of the earth,
I dream’d that was the new city of friends,
Nothing was greater there than the quality of robust love, it led the rest,
It was seen every hour in the actions of the men of that city,
And in all their looks and words.

O to attract by more than attraction!
How it is I know not—yet behold! the something which obeys none of the rest,
It is offensive, never defensive—yet how magnetic it draws.
Man or woman, I might tell how I like you, but cannot,
And might tell what it is in me and what it is in you, but cannot,
Nor the cause of the friendship I emit, nor the cause of the friendship I take again,
That pining I have, that pulse of my nights and 

O adhesiveness! O pulse of my life!
I say it shall be limitless, unloosen’d,
I say you shall yet find the friend you were looking for,
The friendly presence and magnetism needed.
Behold! your friend, as he arrives,
Welcome him when
he looks upon you with cheerful look.

Here rises the fluid and attaching character,
The fluid and attaching character is the freshness and sweetness of man and woman,
Toward the fluid and attaching character exudes the sweat of the love of young and old,
From it falls distill’d the charm that mocks beauty and attainments,
Toward it heaves the shuddering longing ache of contact.
Does the earth gravitate? does not all matter, aching, attract all matter?
So the body of me to all I meet or know.

Here is the efflux of the soul,
The efflux of the soul comes from within through embower’d gates, ever provoking questions:
Why are there men and women that while they are nigh me the sunlight expands my blood?
Why when they leave me do my pennants of joy sink flat and lank?
Who are they I see and touch, and what about them?
What about these likes of myself that draw me so close by tender directions and indirections?

Do you know what it is to be loved as you pass in the street?
Do you know what it is to have men and women crave the touch of your hand and the contact of you?
To touch anyone, or rest my arm ever so lightly round his or her neck for a moment, what is this then?
What is less or more than a touch?

One touch has unhaltered all my senses but feeling,
That pleases the rest so, they have given up to it in submission,
For each is in love with touch.
A touch now reads me a library of knowledge in an instant,
It talks for me with a tongue of its own,
It finds an ear wherever it rests or taps.

I loosen myself, pass freely, persuader always of people to give him their sweetest touches.
There is something in the touch of any candid clean person,
What it is I do not know, but it fills me with wonderful and exquisite sensations,
It is enough to be with him or her—
To touch my person to someone else’s is about as much as I can stand.

NEXT: Lovers Around the World