The Body


That I am is of my body, and what identity I am, I owe to my body,
Of all that I have had, I have had nothing except through my body,
And what I should be I knew I should be of my body.
What belongs to me, that it does not yet spread in the spread of the universe, I owe to my body—
I comprehend no better life than the life of my body.

O the magnet! the flesh over and over!
I believe in the flesh and the appetites,
Seeing, hearing, feeling, are miracles, and each part and tag of me is a miracle.
To prepare for sleep, for bed, to look on my rose-color’d flesh!
To be conscious of my body, so satisfied, so large!
That wondrous house, more than all the old high-spired cathedrals,
For I do not believe any one possesses a more perfect or enamour’d body than mine.

But O my body! I dare not desert the likes of you in other men and women, nor the likes of the parts of you.
Have you ever loved the body of a woman?
Have you ever loved the body of a man?
Do you not see that these are exactly the same to all in all nations and times all over the earth?
Illustrious the senses, the body,
All comes by the body, man’s or woman’s.

The complete human form is God’s highest work and perfect masterpiece,
The epitome of all, the
universal emblem,
That of the male is perfect, and that of the female is perfect.
For it the globe lay preparing quintillions of years without one animal or plant,
For it the revolving cycles truly and steadily roll’d;

Every part able, active, receptive, a father, a mother,
Without shame or the need of shame.

Those of its organs and acts tacitly yielded as vile are not in reality vile,
They too are to be mentioned and faced, and openly treated in literature—
He who travels with that which is ashamed of the body travels straight for the slopes of dissolution.
Welcome is every organ and attribute of me, and of any man hearty and clean,
The head well-grown proportion’d and plumb, and the bowels and joints proportion’d and plumb,
Not an inch nor a particle of an inch is vile, and none shall be less familiar than the rest.

The body itself balks account,
The other poets write with reference to the costume of the body, or, at most,
with reference to the body, costumed,
But I—who, having consider’d the body, finds all its organs and parts good—write my poems with reference to the perfect body, divine, irrespective of costumes,
In it I have eternal faith.

Human bodies are words, myriads of words.
A true composition in words, like some vast living body, returns the human body, male or female,
Loving that which is necessary to make it complete;
In the best poems re-appears the body, man’s or woman, well-shaped, natural, gay,
The most perfect composition, best beloved by men and women, slights no part of the body.

I sing a poem in which is minutely described the whole particulars and ensemble of a first-rate healthy human body—the female equally with the male—
The sight of the perfect body, looked into and through, as if it were transparent and of pure glass, and now reported—
The words of the body,
The divine list for myself or you or for anyone making,
The index from head to foot:

Head, hair—long hair, crispy hair, the pale yellow and white of his hair,
The shape of his head,
In this head the all-baffling brain, in its folds inside the skull-frame.
Gray eyes,
life-lit eyes, (the immeasurable meaning of his black eyes,)
Waking or sleeping of the lids,
Drop and tympan of the ears,
Temples, nostrils, roof of the mouth, jaws, and the jaw-hinges,
The continual changes of the flex of the mouth, and around the eyes,
Mustache, manly beard, (the beards of the young men glisten’d with wet,)
The skin, the sunburnt shade, freckles,
The blood show’d like scarlet through the clear-brown skin of his face.

The expression of the face balks account—
This common curtain of the face,
This bending rough-cut mask,
This glaze of God’s serenest purest sky,
This film of Satan’s seething pit,
This drama of the whole,
(Tragedies, sorrows, laughter, tears—O heaven!
The passionate teeming plays this curtain hid.)

But the expression of a well-made man appears not only in his face,
It is in his limbs and joints also, it is curiously in the joints of his hips and wrists,
It is in his walk, the carriage of his neck, the flex of his waist and knees.

Ample pliant neck, neck-slue, (my head slues round on my neck,)
Scapula, strong shoulders, hind-shoulders,
Backbone, breast-bone, flakes of breast-muscle, (blacksmiths with grimed and hairy chests,)
Curling hair of the breast, scented herbage of ribb’d breast, (tomb-leaves, body-leaves growing up above death,)
Ribs, the beauty of the waist, (the lithe sheer of their waists plays even with their massive arms.)

Polish’d and perfect limbs, good-sized arms and legs,
My joints, the limberest joints on earth and the sternest joints on earth,
These limbs, red, black, or white, cunning in tendon and nerve.
Armpit, elbow-socket, wrist-joints,
Brown hands, finger-joints, (the narrowest hinge in my hand puts to scorn all machinery,)
The beauty of the hips, hip-sockets, and thence downward toward the knees,
Leg-fibres, bend of legs, knee-pan, ankles, instep, toe-joints.

Belly, (white bellies bulge to the sun,)
Crotch and vine, silk-thread, man-root, love-root, man-balls, (that of myself without which I were nothing.)
All that is a woman—
The heads and bosoms of women, the teats, nipples, breast-milk,
The womb,
The contour of their shape downwards.

And wonders within there yet:
The bones and the marrow in the bones,
The lung-sponges, the passing of blood and air through my lungs,
The circling rivers the breath, and breathing it in and out,
Respiration and inspiration, the smoke of my own breath,
The stomach-sac, digestion, the bowels sweet and clean.

The beating of my heart, (there swells and jets a heart,)
Heart valves, the curious systole and diastole within, (which will one day cease.)
The human heart beats with terrible throes under its ribs,
Beating
to jet the all-alike and innocent blood,
Within there runs blood,
The thin red jellies within you or within me,
The same old blood! the same red-running blood!
Exquisite senses of my body, (senses that take you and dismiss you continually)—
All the belongings of my or your body or of anyone’s body, male or female.

If life and the soul are sacred, the human body is sacred,
If anything is sacred the human body is sacred,
The man’s body is sacred, and the woman’s body is sacred,
No matter who it is, it is sacred.
 

In the faces of men and women I see God, and in my own face in the glass,
The unclothed face is divine—
But only the unclothed body, diviner still, is fully divine.

About my body for me, and your body for you, be hung our divinest aromas,
Whoever you are, how superb and how divine is your body, or any part of it!

If I worship one thing more than another it shall be the spread of my own body, or any part of it:
My brain it shall be your occult convolutions,
Mix’d tussled hay of head, beard, brawn, it shall be you!
Root of wash’d sweet-flag! timorous pond-snipe! nest of guarded duplicate eggs! it shall be you!

O I say these are not the parts and poems of the body only, but of the soul.

NEXT: BODY AND SOUL