Shirt


Carl Sandburg, 1878-1967

I remember once I ran after you and tagged the fluttering
shirt of you in the wind.
Once many days ago I drank a glassful of something and
the picture of you shivered and slid on top of the stuff.
And again it was nobody else but you I heard in the
singing voice of a careless humming woman.
One night when I sat with chums telling stories at a
bonfire flickering red embers, in a language its own
talking to a spread of white stars:
It was you that slunk laughing
in the clumsy staggering shadows.
Broken answers of remembrance let me know you are
alive with a peering phantom face behind a doorway
somewhere in the city’s push and fury.
Or under a pack of moss and leaves waiting in silence
under a twist of oaken arms ready as ever to run<
away again when I tag the fluttering shirt of you.

Not Jesus In A Pop-Up Camper, But…


Journey
@Spill_words

It wasn’t Jesus in a popup camper, but it was alright.

I am, in a word, astonished.
I find myself home after 50 years on the road.
I’ve endured, mainly ordinary disappointments,
some worse than that.

But all that is stored in albums on the shelf.
If I had a fireplace, I’d build a fire and sit,
With a big dog I don’t have, and a cat or two,
And flip through the memories again,
Sipping brandy and smoking a pipe I don’t have,
Since I quit smoking.

I have wiped the spider webs from the door
Cleaned the musty rooms
Thrown out that rotten food left in the ‘fridge.
Cleaned the basement and attic of
Things that don’t matter.
(And maybe never did.)
There’s still more to do,
But the old place waited patiently, and now is livable.
I’ve written about all that.

I was away longer than planned,
Living under the perverse and immutable rule of
The Law of Unintended Consequences,
The law of the Universe, as written:

“It shall be impossible to control everything. 
Even if you control almost everything,or 
Nearly everything—more than anyone else ever has,
or ever will—”

There will always be something you miss. 
And just because it’s fun to fuck with you,
This one thing will be the thing that screws you over.
Every time.”

A slow learner, it took most of my life to learn the rule.
The trip? A long, loopy, spastic waking fever-dream,
Out around the sun, slingshot back, coasting through
The cold void, the silence, alone,
To Mars and her moons, and back again,
To the past, to the future, and landing in the present,
Only to cross wilderness and water,
Barren desert and lush mountains.
Guess how much of that was on purpose.

The whole thing was shot through with wanting and
Emptiness and hidden vibrations and distant lights,
Filled with many corners, inevitable surprises around each,
And over and over, I met myself, wanting.
More. Different.
Understanding little at the time but driven by wanting.

The sea moves always, the wind moves always,
I want and I want and there is no end to my wanting.

I spun out and out, and around and around and down,
And, finally, ended where I began.

Now? The forms are all completed, the reports filed.
I am free. One manacle after another has been cut away.
I have nothing useful to do, and none can tell me to do it

I walk the buckled sidewalks of the old neighborhood.
A little hurt that no one asks for my autograph.
They don’t know, or care, about the journey.

But the children and I listen when the birds
Sit in the trees and sing like crystal and soar free,
Wishing we were with them,
Dreaming of soaring, singing high above the Earth.

This will take some adjustment.
I don’t know the lingo any more,
The streets have changed,
The Blankenships next door got old, died,
And the kids living in their house
Don’t care where I’ve been.
Difference is dangerous, they’ve learned.
And even though I know I belong—or did—
They give me wide berth,
Laugh and run away
Shouting in an unknown, yet faintly familiar language.

Inhabiting the skin of my most advanced age yet is
The strangest feeling, sometimes.
Inside I’m still young, curious, horny and wistful.
Still wanting, but not any more sure than
Ever what would satisfy the need.
Then I look in the mirror and see
A stranger with mileage, a certain weariness… but me .

I wish I could grow one magic eye,
Able to see the truth of things,
And yet not despair.
But maybe I found a seed of it on the trip,
And while it needs a little tending,
There is occasionally some magic in it.

And that pleases me.

Everything I’ve done, everything and everyone
I’ve known; the friends, the enemies;
The broken bodies I left in my wake,
All the times I failed to just be kind,
(When it would have cost me nothing),
Or to learn from my mistakes,

If any of it had been different,
Even something small I didn’t notice at the time,
The story would have been entirely different.

So tonight, I’ll live the story I imagine,
By the imaginary fireplace, with
The imaginary brandy and dog and cats,
And flip through the old album, the only thing
That’s real, and let the truth rise.

That’s all I ever really wanted.

 

Do You Solemnly Swear?


Carl and Lilian Steichen Sandburg
Carl and Lilian Steichen Sandburg

Carl Sandburg

“Do you solemnly swear before the everliving God
that the testimony you
are about to give in this cause shall
be the truth, the whole truth, and
nothing but the truth?”

“No, I don’t. I can tell you what I saw
and what I heard and I’ll swear to
that by the everliving God but the
more I study about it the more sure
I am that nobody but the everliving
God knows the whole truth and if
you summoned Christ as a witness
in this case what He would tell you
would burn your insides with the
pity and the mystery of it.”

In the poem of collections, “The People, Yes”. 1936, Harcourt & Brace; 1990 First Harvest Edition.

The Sea Moves Always


GreenWave

Carl Sandburg:

The sea moves always, the wind moves always,
They want and they want and there is no end to their wanting.
What they sing is the song of the people.
Man will never arrive. Man will always be on the way.
It is written he shall rest, but never for long.
The sea and the wind tell him he shall be lonely, meet love,
Be shaken with struggle and go on wanting.

O, I Got a Zoo, I Got a Menagerie, Inside My Ribs


Because you can never get too much Carl. #Sandburgforpresident

Carl Sandburg
Carl Sandburg

The Wilderness

BY CARL SANDBURG

 Listen to the poet reading this in 1954. 

“There is a wolf in me . . . fangs pointed for tearing gashes . . . a red tongue for raw meat . . . and the hot lapping of blood—I keep this wolf because the wilderness gave it to me and the wilderness will not let it go. 

There is a fox in me . . . a silver-gray fox . . . I sniff and guess . . . I pick things out of the wind and air . . . I nose in the dark night and take sleepers and eat them and hide the feathers . . . I circle and loop and double-cross.

There is a hog in me . . . a snout and a belly . . . a machinery for eating and grunting . . . a machinery for sleeping satisfied in the sun—I got this too from the wilderness and the wilderness will not let it go.

There is a fish in me . . . I know I came from salt-blue water-gates . . . I scurried with shoals of herring . . . I blew waterspouts with porpoises . . . before land was . . . before the water went down . . . before Noah . . . before the first chapter of Genesis.

There is a baboon in me . . . clambering-clawed . . . dog-faced . . . yawping a galoot’s hunger . . . hairy under the armpits . . . here are the hawk-eyed hankering men . . . here are the blonde and blue-eyed women . . . here they hide curled asleep waiting . . . ready to snarl and kill . . . ready to sing and give milk . . . waiting—I keep the baboon because the wilderness says so.

There is an eagle in me and a mockingbird . . . and the eagle flies among the Rocky Mountains of my dreams and fights among the Sierra crags of what I want . . . and the mockingbird warbles in the early forenoon before the dew is gone, warbles in the underbrush of my Chattanoogas of hope, gushes over the blue Ozark foothills of my wishes—And I got the eagle and the mockingbird from the wilderness.

O, I got a zoo, I got a menagerie, inside my ribs, under my bony head, under my red-valve heart—and I got something else: it is a man-child heart, a woman-child heart: it is a father and mother and lover: it came from God-Knows-Where: it is going to God-Knows-Where—For I am the keeper of the zoo: I say yes and no: I sing and kill and work: I am a pal of the world: I came from the wilderness.

Yes


MilkyWay_Java_justin Ng

Yes to the unknown, the tears, the sweat.
Yes to the ‘morrow-rise and sunset.
Yes to the voices, young and strong,
Yes to the children learning right from wrong.

Yes to the starlight, high and cold,
Yes to the mists, and the mysteries they hold.
Yes to the hard road, traveled alone,
Yes to the love that reaches the bone.

Yes to the losses that each must bear,
Yes to the life sources, sea and air,
Yes to the pains that teach us strength,
Yes to the spirit that wins at length

Yes to the people, yes to their backs,
Yes to their yokes and labor and acts.
Yes to the toilers, loafers and apes,
Yes to the tillers of history’s landscapes.

Yes to the dawn, arms spread wide,
Yes to the rains and winds and tide,
Yes to the future, right or wrong,
Yes to the others, who rise in  song.

Back Again to Connamara


sandburg1
Plaque at the Connemara Farm where Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Carl Sandburg and his family lived from 1945 until Mr. Sandburg’s death in 1967. They lived a simple life and surrounded themselves with things with which they were comfortable.

Time’s coming. I can feel it. Time to go again to Connemara to spend a few hours walking the grounds, following the guide through the house, left exactly as it was when the family left in 1967 (after he died, but not long after) and never returned. A quiet place where I can soak up the stories the wallpaper still has to tell, about how to dirty some paper. Up in the cluttered room on the third floor, to try to figure out how it’s done. And yes, to be honest, to indulge in a little hero-worship.

sandburgwritingroom
The attic room where Sandburg wrote about a third of his total body of work, including his massive biography of Abraham Lincoln. It’s a little west of Rutherfordton, NC, near the town of Flatrock, and is now a National Park. http://www.nps.gov/carl/index.htm

The Way It Was, Is


dreamin'
The way I was, resting on a long road, laughingly  and thankfully ignorant of the future.

It happens. The dry spells drift in around my ankles like sand, and before I know it, I can’t move.

Oh, well. These times happen, and we try to figure out what to do. It will pass, and then something new will either delight or dismay, sometimes simultaneously. On this day, a day of sad remembrance, it is a time to pause, and think of the People.

The summer was eventful, meaningful, powerful and full of the closing of some doors and the exciting, tentative opening of others.  And over it all hovers the terrible news of murder and suffering and liars loose on the land, of children dying for no reason, of the sins of the powerful, the stupidity of the masses.

In the meantime, I read your posts and silently urge you on. Don’t worry about me. I’m resting, that’s all. Getting down to basics. It happens. It will pass. I look out on the rooflines of old mansions from my high perch. The Fall sunshine kisses the leaves that still grace the trees and suggests things in dappled shadows on the wall. It is a good place to be, a perfect place to rise in order to sink down into the meat of things.

And in the meantime, I read, keeping company with others to show me the way to kick my feet free and to step out onto the long road again….

Memo: If I Were In Charge…..


Note: This is evidence why it’s a bad idea to put me in charge of anything. 


Memo To: the “Under-appreciated and Whiny” code Monkeys downstairs  Web Development Department

From: That Idiot Upstairs Who Signs the Checks

Hi, guys. I need to talk to a web developer. We’ve got a little bug in the code on the Hello Poetry site. Our pages are telling readers to submit “suggestions” on a mouse-over of the little pencil icon.

To Carl Sandburg, in this example. Of all people.

I know….Yes, none of us, including me, saw the problem when we OK’d the final design. No fingers are being pointed. However, now that I see it, live, next to Sandburg’s name, and others, it doesn’t seem like our finest move.

He’s been dead for several decades—30 years before the Internet—for one thing, so there’s little chance he’s going to get any emails. For another, he won three Pulitzers, and we haven’t won any, nor have our readers, as far as we know. And he probably wrote a couple of million poems. Let’s quietly disable that feature before writers everywhere see it and say mean things about us on their blogs. You know what drama kings and queens they are …..

Sandburg copy

Last Answers


Carl Sandburg
Carl Sandburg

by Carl Sandburg

 I wrote a poem on the mist
And a woman asked me what I meant by it.
I had thought till then only of the beauty of the mist,
 how pearl and gray of it mix and reel,
And change the drab shanties with lighted lamps at evening
 into points of mystery quivering with color.

 I answered:
The whole world was mist once long ago and some day
 it will all go back to mist,
Our skulls and lungs are more water than bone and
 tissue
And all poets love dust and mist because all the last
 answers
Go running back to dust and mist.