I give the undertakers permission to haul my body
to the graveyard and to lay away all, the head, the feet, the hands, all:
I know there is something left over they can not put away.
Let the nanny goats and the billy goats of the shanty people
eat the clover over my grave
and if any yellow hair
or any blue smoke of flowers
is good enough to grow over me
let the dirty-fisted children
of the shanty people pick these flowers.
I have had my chance to live with the people who have
too much and the people who have
too little and I chose one of the two and I have told no man why.
“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, 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.
“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.
“I love you,” said a great mother. “I love you for what you are knowing so well what you are.
“And I love you more yet, child, deeper yet than ever, child, for what you are going to be, knowing so well you are going far, knowing your great works are ahead, ahead and beyond, yonder and far over yet.”