i woke to music
of winter’s composition—
cold rain-notes tapping
Lightning diagrams a cross
On the onyx sky.
This light in my eye still shines—
Am I able to bear it?
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.
The red-tailed hawk swooped,
snatched a gray squirrel. Red tearing—
this, too, is lovely.
(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.
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,
on the sand,
waves drowning out
Perceiving the pathway to truth,
Was struck with astonishment.
It was thickly grown with weeds.
“Ha,” he said,
“I see that none has passed here
In a long time.”
Later he saw that each weed
Was a singular knife.
“Well,” he mumbled at last,
“Doubtless there are other roads.”
–from War is Kind
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 far above and beyond.
All things, at some
made of the same swirling particles
as my very hand.