You Felons on Trial in Courts

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from Leaves of Grass: Book XXIV - by Walt Whitman.

  You felons on trial in courts,
  You convicts in prison-cells, you sentenced assassins chain’d and
      handcuff’d with iron,
  Who am I too that I am not on trial or in prison?
  Me ruthless and devilish as any, that my wrists are not chain’d with
      iron, or my ankles with iron?

  You prostitutes flaunting over the trottoirs or obscene in your rooms,
  Who am I that I should call you more obscene than myself?

  O culpable! I acknowledge—I expose!
  (O admirers, praise not me—compliment not me—you make me wince,
  I see what you do not—I know what you do not.)

  Inside these breast-bones I lie smutch’d and choked,
  Beneath this face that appears so impassive hell’s tides continually run,
  Lusts and wickedness are acceptable to me,
  I walk with delinquents with passionate love,
  I feel I am of them—I belong to those convicts and prostitutes myself,
  And henceforth I will not deny them—for how can I deny myself?


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