City with No Neighbors

Walt Whitman reminds us to see the buried humanity in that stranger on the subway. In a curious twist of history, Andrew Carnegie, that titan of industry, once called Walt Whitman the greatest poet America has ever produced. The steel magnate whose mills powered an industrial revolution saw the genius in the man who dressed like a hobo and wrote Leaves of Grass . Whitman wrote many poems chronicling the effects, good and ill, of industrial change. Perhaps none is as poignant as “To a Stranger.” Passing stranger! you do not know how longingly I look upon you, You must be he I was seeking, or she I was seeking, (it comes to me, as of a dream,) I have somewhere surely lived a life of joy with you, All is recall’d as we flit by each other, fluid, affectionate, chaste, matured, You grew up with me, were a boy with me, or a girl with me, I ate with you, and slept with you — your body has become not yours only, nor left my body mine only, You give me the pleasure of your eyes, face, flesh, as we pass — you take of my beard, breast, […]

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