Carl Sandburg: Stephen Crane


Before fame came to him he was scornful of it.
After fame arrived he was still scornful of it.
He asked himself how shall men of facts deal with poems,
and how shall men of poems deal with facts?
In London his woman filled fourteen cob pipes
with tobacco and stood them in a row on his
writing table each morning.
The day’s work was done and it was time to quit
when the last pipe was smoked.
He died far on a blue star hunting the answer
why steel is steel and mist is mist.


Sandburg (like me) was a fan of Crane. This is one of Sandburg’s best character study poems, I think.

Robert Burns: from My Father Was a Farmer


(Tune: The Weaver and His Shuttle, O)

[. . .]

Thus all obscure, unknown, and poor, thro’ life I’m doomed to wander, O
Till down my weary bones I lay in everlasting slumber, O
No view nor care, but shun whate’er might breed me pain or sorrow, O
I live today, as well’s I may, regardless of tomorrow, O.

But cheerful still, I am as well, as a monarch in a palace, O
Tho’ fortune’s frown still hunts me down, with all her wonted malice, O
I make indeed, my daily bread, but ne’er can make it farther, O
But as daily bread is all I need, I do not much regard her, O.

Sand Castles

sand castle

We don’t know what makes a life
         but we try to build one anyway,
like children patting together

         sand castles that the water
will lap away anyhow
         into the obliterating sea, bit

by gritty bit. Reliving
         the old, old story
we raise towers

         whose tops may reach unto heaven
to make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad
         upon the face of the whole earth,

to emphasize our hopes
         of seeing high and deep and wide,
squatting sodden-drawered

         on the sand,
waves drowning out
         our voice.


Nursery_of_New_Stars_NASA_public domain

(Image: Nursery of New Stars. NASA, public domain)

You. Me. The tea-colored
water of Tumble Creek.
The red-winged blackbird

wearing his colors
like a badge. The swaying
cat-tails. The soft

soil in my garden.
The beetle that rolls
dung into little balls.

The dung balls. The sun
that slants light to earth,
drawing up green life.

The celestial bodies
blinking down from heaven like
something special,

something glorious,
something far above and beyond.
All things, at some

fundamental level
made of the same swirling particles
as my very hand.