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Walt Whitman's poems took in the world through a wide-angle lens, including nearly everything, but most later poets have focused much more narrowly. Here the poet and novelist Jim Harrison nods to Whitman with a sweeping, inclusive poem about the course of life.

Marching

At dawn I heard among bird calls

the billions of marching feet in the churn and squeak of gravel, even tiny feet still wet from the mother's amniotic fluid, and very old halting feet, the feet of the very light and very heavy, all marching but not together, criss-crossing at every angle with sincere attempts not to touch, not to bump into each other, walking in the doors of houses and out the back door forty years later, finally knowing that time collapses on a single plateau where they were all their lives, knowing that time stops when the heart stops as they walk off the earth into the night air.

 

"Marching," from Jim Harrison's Saving Daylight (2006) is reprinted by permission of Copper Canyon Press. This weekly column is supported by the Poetry Foundation, the Library of Congress and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. This column does not accept unsolicited poetry.

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