Grits and Tamales

Life in the Deep South, by Gabriel Aguilera

The Solitary Guest From Alabama

From: A WORD OUT OF THE SEA. By Walt Whitman

Once, Paumanok, when the snows had melted, and the fifth-month grass was growing, up this sea-shore, in some briars, two guests from Alabama—two together, and their nest, and four light-green eggs spotted with brown; and every day the he-bird, to and fro, near at hand, and every day the she-bird, crouched on her nest, silent, with bright eyes; and every day I, a curious boy, never too close, never disturbing them, cautiously peering, absorbing, translating.

Shine! shine! shine! Pour down your warmth, great Sun! While we bask—we two together. Two together! Winds blow South, or winds blow North, day come white or night come black, home, or rivers and mountains from home, singing all time, minding no time, If we two but keep together.

Till of a sudden, maybe killed, unknown to her mate, one forenoon the she-bird crouched not on the nest, or returned that afternoon, nor the next, nor ever appeared again. And thenceforward, all summer, in the sound of the sea, and at night, under the full of the moon, in calmer weather, over the hoarse surging of the sea, or flitting from briar to briar by day, I saw, I heard at intervals, the remaining one, the he-bird, the solitary guest from Alabama.

Yes, when the stars glistened. All night long, on the prong of a moss-scalloped stake, down, almost amid the slapping waves, sat the lone singer, wonderful, causing tears. He called on his mate; he poured forth the meanings which I, of all men, know. Yes, my brother, I know; the rest might not—but I have treasured every note; for once, and more than once, dimly, down to the beach gliding, silent, avoiding the moonbeams, blending myself with the shadows, recalling now the obscure shapes, the echoes, the sounds and sights after their sorts, the white arms out in the breakers tirelessly tossing, I, with bare feet, a child, the wind wafting my hair, listened long and long. Listened, to keep, to sing—now translating the notes, following you, my brother.


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