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poetry Leaves of Crass

Illinois poet Jeff Balch takes some liberties with Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself,” turning the verse into something like the voice of our president, if he were poetic.


 Leaves of Crass 

(with apologies to Mr. Whitman)

By Jeff Balch


I celebrate myself, and sing myself,

And what I assume you shall assume,

For every atom belonging to you as good belongs to me.

I loaf and invite my soul,

I lean and loaf at my ease observing a summer television.

I, now seventy-two years old in perfect health begin,

Hoping to cease not till my fourth or fifth term of office.


My homes and rooms are perfumed by me,

I breathe the fragrance of myself and know it and like it,

The distillation would intoxicate me, but I shall not let it.

It is in my mouth forever, I am in love with it,

I will go to the bank of the stream and become undisguised and naked,

I am mad for it to be in contact with me.


What is highest quality yet commonest, nearest, is Me,

Me going in for my chances, spending for vast returns,

Adorning myself to bestow myself,

Scattering Me freely forever.


The machinist rolls up his sleeves, the gate-keeper marks who pass,

The groups of newly-come immigrants cover the wharf or levee,

Welcomed on merit and highest Me-like quality;

The reporter’s lead flies swiftly over the unneeded notebook, unfake and praising of Me,

The prostitute draggles her shawl and catches the eye of Me,

President Me in cabinet council surrounded by the great Secretaries and Generals;

And such as it is to be of these I am,

And of these one and all I weave the song of myself.


I am of the old and of the young, of the wise and of the more wise,

Of the words and of the better words and of the best words,

Stuff’d with the coarse and stuff’d with the fine,

A southerner soon as a northerner,

At home in southern mansion and northern mansion,

My joints the limberest joints on earth and the sternest joints on earth,

Of every hue and caste am I, of every rank and religion that are the best,

Ever stuck up yet ever in my place.


These are the thoughts of all men in all ages and lands,

If they are not yours as much as mine they are nothing,

If they are not as close as they are distant they are nothing.

This is the grass that grows, the best grass,

This is the common air yet best air that bathes the globe.


I wear my hair as I please indoors or out.

Why should I pray? why venerate and be ceremonious?

I find no sweeter flesh than sticks to my own bones.

I know I am solid and sound,

I know I am deathless, I know this orbit of mine cannot be swept,

I do not trouble my spirit to vindicate or be understood,

I see that the elementary laws never apologize,

I know the amplitude of time.

Evil propels me and the clash with evil propels me, I stand indifferent,

I find one side a balance and the other a balance,

No doctrine as steady help as stable doctrine.


Donald Trump, a kosmos, of Manhattan the son,

Turbulent, fleshy, sensual, eating and breeding, no sentimentalist,

And whatever is done or said returns at last to Me.

Through Me forbidden voices,

Voices of sexes and lusts, voices veil’d and I remove the veil,

Voices indecent by me clarified and transfigur’d,

I dote on myself, there is that lot of Me and all so luscious.


My voice goes after what my eyes cannot reach,

With the twirl of my tongue I encompass worlds and volumes of worlds,

I hear the sound I love, my voice,

I believe a wisp of my hair is no less than the journey-work of the stars,

And my narrowest finger-hinge puts to scorn all machinery.

I am a free companion, I bivouac with the invaders,

I turn the bridegroom out of bed and stay with the bride myself,

I tighten her all night to my thighs,

I understand the large hearts of heroes.


Believing I shall come again upon the earth after five thousand years,

I am an acme of things accomplish’d, and I an encloser of things to be.

My rendezvous is appointed, it is certain,

I tramp a perpetual journey, come listen all!

I understand God not in the least,

Nor understand who there can be more wonderful than myself,

The past and present wilt—I have fill’d them, emptied them,

And proceed to fill the next fold of the future.

Do I contradict myself?

Very well then I contradict myself,

I am large, I contain multitudes.

I sound my barbaric Yawp over the roofs of the world.

Jeff Balch lives in the Chicago area with his family.