The People Will Live On

By Carl Sandburg

The people will live on.
The learning and blundering people will live on.
They will be tricked and sold and again sold
And go back to the nourishing earth for rootholds,
The people so peculiar in renewal and comeback,
You can’t laugh off their capacity to take it.
The mammoth rests between his cyclonic dramas.

The people so often sleepy, weary, enigmatic,
is a vast huddle with many units saying:
“I earn my living.
I make enough to get by
and it takes all my time.
If I had more time
I could do more for myself
and maybe for others.
I could read and study
and talk things over
and find out about things.
It takes time.
I wish I had the time.”

The people is a tragic and comic two-face: hero and hoodlum:
phantom and gorilla twisting to moan with a gargoyle mouth:
“They buy me and sell me…it’s a game…sometime I’ll
break loose…”

Once having marched
Over the margins of animal necessity,
Over the grim line of sheer subsistence
Then man came
To the deeper rituals of his bones,
To the lights lighter than any bones,
To the time for thinking things over,
To the dance, the song, the story,
Or the hours given over to dreaming,
Once having so marched.

Between the finite limitations of the five senses
and the endless yearnings of man for the beyond
the people hold to the humdrum bidding of work and food
while reaching out when it comes their way
for lights beyond the prison of the five senses,
for keepsakes lasting beyond any hunger or death.
This reaching is alive.
The panderers and liars have violated and smutted it.
Yet this reaching is alive yet
for lights and keepsakes.

The people know the salt of the sea
and the strength of the winds
lashing the corners of the earth.
The people take the earth
as a tomb of rest and a cradle of hope.
Who else speaks for the Family of Man?
They are in tune and step
with constellations of universal law.
The people is a polychrome,
a spectrum and a prism
held in a moving monolith,
a console organ of changing themes,
a clavilux of color poems
wherein the sea offers fog
and the fog moves off in rain
and the labrador sunset shortens
to a nocturne of clear stars
serene over the shot spray
of northern lights.

The steel mill sky is alive.
The fire breaks white and zigzag
shot on a gun-metal gloaming.
Man is a long time coming.
Man will yet win.
Brother may yet line up with brother.

This old anvil laughs at many broken hammers.
There are men who can’t be bought.
The fireborn are at home in fire.
The stars make no noise,
You can’t hinder the wind from blowing.
Time is a great teacher.
Who can live without hope?

In the darkness with a great bundle of grief
the people march.
In the night, and overhead a shovel of stars for keeps, the people
“Where to? what next?”


by Carl Sandburg

Nancy Hanks dreams by the fire;
Dreams, and the logs sputter,
And the yellow tongues climb.
Red lines lick their way in flickers.
Oh, sputter, logs.
      Oh, dream, Nancy.
Time now for a beautiful child.
Time now for a tall man to come.


by Carl Sandburg

The wishes on this child’s mouth
Came like snow on marsh cranberries;
The tamarack kept something for her;
The wind is ready to help her shoes.
The north has loved her; she will be
A Grandmother feeding geese on frosty
Mornings; she will understand
Early snow on the cranberries
Better and better then.

Offering and Rebuff

by Carl Sandburg

I could love you
as dry roots love rain.
I could hold you
as branches in the wind 
brandish petals.
Forgive me for speaking
so soon.

     . . .

   Let your heart look
   on white sea spray
   and be lonely.

   Love is a fool star.

You and a ring of stars
may mention my name
and then forget me.

Love is a fool star.

     . . .

You and a Sickle Moon

by Carl Sandburg

The lips of you are with me tonight.
And the arms of you are a circle of white.

The dream of it burns.
And I want you and the stars.
I want you and a sickle moon.

The finger tips of you
Five hundred miles away
Make a wireless crying flash:
I know a search that’s useless,
I know a code I don’t hunt for,
I know a face that’s gone.

Back home the hills talk to me.
Here the hills are strangers.
The lips of you are a ghost.
The arms of you are a ghost.
       The red and white is empty air.

                                         Omaha 1917

Troth Tryst

by Carl Sandburg

There is a troth between us.
A troth means we are to keep
a tryst.
A tryst means we shall drop into 
a dappled sea together.
The sea is a grand smooth clamor,
bitter with fish, drowsy with dream

She Held Herself a Deep Pool for Him

by Carl Sandburg

she held herself a deep pool for him
and the shadows crying for him
he gathered himself in many dark waters
and the shadows crying for her
they took each other in shadow meetings
they held themselves in shadow songs

    she coiled herself around him
    with a ribbon of glass
    and a rope of gold
    the coils of her cunning held him
    with rings of golden glass
    with a moon of melting gold
    with a mist of sunset ribbons

In Blue Gown and in Black Satin Gown

by Carl Sandburg


she wore a blue gown for him once
the fabric flowing with her curves
only the hair of long black eyelashes
flashing naked for his eyes:
a mist of wanting gathered
a black-ice loneliness between them:
   she loosened the blue gown
   and lay bare before him
      a smooth miracle of dawn
      a silent shingle of lights--
         so they hid themselves
         in a winding sheet of passion
         in a little hut of shaken walls

she wore a black satin gown for him once
the flow of her hips a poem of night
moving in a dusk of her long eyelashes
   standing they held a greeting kiss
   murmured of the ritual to come
      she lay waiting for him
      lifting the black satin
      gleaming over a white navel
         she drew him in with familiar sheaths
         they lay in a room of blood-rose shadows
   hearing many clocks in a music of bronze
   in flesh tones of a cool vesper twilight
      slowly they moved into storm and drums
      into a whirl of changing light-spokes
         her white torso lost in satin shadows
         sank in a moan of white blossoms
         in a falling sheen of black moonlight

Lines for Flying

While flying today, certain lines from 4 of the poems I was reading stood out:

“Sling me under the sea”

“And I shall be song of thunder, crash of sea”

“The dead say nothing
And the dead know much
And the dead hold under their tongues
A locked-up story.”

Doggedly onward plunging,
Into salt and mist and foam and sun”

“All the last answers
Go running back to dust and mist”


Poetry finds you where you are.

From The Shore by Carl Sandburg

A lone gray bird,
Dim-dipping, far-flying,
Alone in the shadows and grandeurs and tumults
Of the night and the sea
And the stars and storms.

Out over the darkness it wavers and hovers,
Out into the gloom it swings and batters,
Out into the wind and the rain and the vast,
Out into the pit of a great black world,
Where fogs are at battle, sky-driven, sea-blown,
Love of mist and rapture of flight,
Glories of chance and hazards of death
On its eager and palpitant wings.

Out into the deep of the great dark world,
Beyond the long borders where foam and drift
Of the sundering waves are lost and gone
On the tides that plunge and rear and crumble.