Within the crowd of passengers on that December day in 1855 stood a man dressed in laborer's clothes. In his checkered shirt, baggy pants, and broad-brimmed hat, Walt Whitman resembled the crew that piloted the ferry. He had the large build and ruddy face of someone who spent his time outdoors. Whitman admired the simple, hardworking ferryboat pilots. He often rode beside them on his many trips across the river. "I am a common working man,too," his clothes told the world. But Whitman, a former journalist, teacher, and builder, had chosen to be a poet. The poems in Whitman's small book, Leaves of Grass, expressed how it felt to be one man, yet one with all humanity. "Every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you," he told his readers.Whitman's poetry proclaimed his love for his fellow human beings. Through his words, Whitman believed, he could reach across time and great distances to connect with other people. The poetry in Leaves of Grass spoke directly to its readers, asking them to "thrust me beneath your clothing, where I may feel the throbs of your heart or rest upon your hip." (C. Reef)
"I am with you, you men and women of a generation, or ever so many generations hence . . ."