Arithmetic Poem Carl Sandburg Meaning
Out of White Lips
OUT of white lips a question: Shall seven million dead ask for their blood a little land for the living wives and children, a little land for the living brothers and sisters?
Out of white lips:—Shall they have only air that sweeps round the earth for breath of their nostrils and no footing on the dirt of the earth for their battle-drabbed, battle-soaked shoes?
Out of white lips:—Is the red in the flag the blood of a free man on a piece of land his own or is it the red of a sheep slit in the throat for mutton?
Out of white lips a white pain murmurs: Who shall have land? Him who has stood ankle deep in the blood of his comrades, in the red trenches dug in the land?
Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.Carl Sandburg
BECAUSE I have called to you
as the flame flamingo calls,
or the want of a spotted hawk
because in the dusk
the warblers shoot the running
waters of short songs to the
the cry here is wing to wing
and song to song—
I am waiting,
waiting with the flame flamingo,
the spotted hawk, the running water
waiting for you.
THE SEA at its worst drives a white foam up,
The same sea sometimes so easy and rocking with green mirrors.
So you were there when the white foam was up
And the salt spatter and the rack and the dulse—
You were done fingering these, and high, higher and higher
Your feet went and it was your voice went, “Hai, hai, hai,”
Up where the rocks let nothing live and the grass was gone,
Not even a hank nor a wisp of sea moss hoping.
Here your feet and your same singing, “Hai, hai, hai.”
Was there anything else to answer than, “Hai, hai, hai,”?
Did I go up those same crags yesterday and the day before
Scruffing my shoe leather and scraping the tough gnomic stuff
Of stones woven on a cold criss-cross so long ago?
Have I not sat there … watching the white foam up,
The hoarse white lines coming to curve, foam, slip back?
Didn’t I learn then how the call comes, “Hai, hai, hai”?
Humming Bird Woman
WHY should I be wondering
How you would look in black velvet and yellow? in orange and green?
I who cannot remember whether it was a dash of blue
Or a whirr of red under your willow throat—
Why do I wonder how you would look in humming-bird feathers?
THE WIND stops, the wind begins.
The wind says stop, begin.
A sea shovel scrapes the sand floor.
The shovel changes, the floor changes.
The sandpipers, maybe they know.
Maybe a three-pointed foot can tell.
Maybe the fog moon they fly to, guesses.
The sandpipers cheep “Here” and get away.
Five of them fly and keep together flying.
Night hair of some sea woman
Curls on the sand when the sea leaves
The salt tide without a good-by.
Boxes on the beach are empty.
Shake ’em and the nails loosen.
They have been somewhere.
I DRANK musty ale at the Illinois Athletic Club with
the millionaire manufacturer of Green River butter
And his face had the shining light of an old-time Quaker,
he spoke of a beautiful daughter, and I knew he had
a peace and a happiness up his sleeve somewhere.
Then I heard Jim Kirch make a speech to the Advertising
Association on the trade resources of South America.
And the way he lighted a three-for-a-nickel stogie and
cocked it at an angle regardless of the manners of
our best people,
I knew he had a clutch on a real happiness even though
some of the reporters on his newspaper say he is
the living double of Jack London's Sea Wolf.
In the mayor's office the mayor himself told me he was
happy though it is a hard job to satisfy all the office-
seekers and eat all the dinners he is asked to eat.
Down in Gilpin Place, near Hull House, was a man with
his jaw wrapped for a bad toothache,
And he had it all over the butter millionaire, Jim Kirch
and the mayor when it came to happiness.
He is a maker of accordions and guitars and not only
makes them from start to finish, but plays them
after he makes them.
And he had a guitar of mahogany with a walnut bottom
he offered for seven dollars and a half if I wanted it,
And another just like it, only smaller, for six dollars,
though he never mentioned the price till I asked him,
And he stated the price in a sorry way, as though the
music and the make of an instrument count for a
million times more than the price in money.
I thought he had a real soul and knew a lot about God.
There was light in his eyes of one who has conquered
sorrow in so far as sorrow is conquerable or worth
Anyway he is the only Chicago citizen I was jealous of
He played a dance they play in some parts of Italy
when the harvest of grapes is over and the wine
presses are ready for work.
The monotone of the rain is beautiful,
And the sudden rise and slow relapse
Of the long multitudinous rain.
The sun on the hills is beautiful,
Or a captured sunset sea-flung,
Bannered with fire and gold.
A face I know is beautiful--
With fire and gold of sky and sea,
And the peace of long warm rain.
WISHES left on your lips
The mark of their wings.
Regrets fly kites in your eyes.
THERE is a woman on Michigan Boulevard keeps a parrot and goldfish and two white mice.
She used to keep a houseful of girls in kimonos and three pushbuttons on the front door.
Now she is alone with a parrot and goldfish and two white mice … but these are some of her thoughts:
The love of a soldier on furlough or a sailor on shore leave burns with a bonfire red and saffron.
The love of an emigrant workman whose wife is a thousand miles away burns with a blue smoke.
The love of a young man whose sweetheart married an older man for money burns with a sputtering uncertain flame.
And there is a love … one in a thousand … burns clean and is gone leaving a white ash.…
And this is a thought she never explains to the parrot and goldfish and two white mice.
I SAT with a dynamiter at supper in a German saloon
eating steak and onions.
And he laughed and told stories of his wife and children
and the cause of labor and the working class.
It was laughter of an unshakable man knowing life to be
a rich and red-blooded thing.
Yes, his laugh rang like the call of gray birds filled with
a glory of joy ramming their winged flight through
a rain storm.
His name was in many newspapers as an enemy of the
nation and few keepers of churches or schools would
open their doors to him.
Over the steak and onions not a word was said of his
deep days and nights as a dynamiter.
Only I always remember him as a lover of life, a lover
of children, a lover of all free, reckless laughter
everywhere--lover of red hearts and red blood the
People Who Must
I PAINTED on the roof of a skyscraper.
I painted a long while and called it a day’s work.
The people on a corner swarmed and the traffic cop’s whistle never let up all afternoon.
They were the same as bugs, many bugs on their way—
Those people on the go or at a standstill;
And the traffic cop a spot of blue, a splinter of brass,
Where the black tides ran around him
And he kept the street. I painted a long while
And called it a day’s work.
I KNOW a Jew fish crier down on Maxwell Street with a
voice like a north wind blowing over corn stubble
He dangles herring before prospective customers evincing
a joy identical with that of Pavlowa dancing.
His face is that of a man terribly glad to be selling fish,
terribly glad that God made fish, and customers to
whom he may call his wares, from a pushcart.
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.
Momus is the name men give your face,
The brag of its tone, like a long low steamboat whistle
Finding a way mid mist on a shoreland,
Where gray rocks let the salt water shatter spray
Against horizons purple, silent.
Men have flung your face in bronze
To gaze in gargoyle downward on a street-whirl of folk.
They were artists did this, shaped your sad mouth,
Gave you a tall forehead slanted with calm, broad wisdom;
All your lips to the corners and your cheeks to the high bones
Thrown over and through with a smile that forever
wishes and wishes, purple, silent, fled from all the
iron things of life, evaded like a sought bandit, gone
into dreams, by God.
I wonder, Momus,
Whether shadows of the dead sit somewhere and look
with deep laughter
On men who play in terrible earnest the old, known,
solemn repetitions of history.
A droning monotone soft as sea laughter hovers from
your kindliness of bronze,
You give me the human ease of a mountain peak, purple,
Granite shoulders heaving above the earth curves,
Careless eye-witness of the spawning tides of men and
Swarming always in a drift of millions to the dust of toil,
the salt of tears,
And blood drops of undiminishing war.
Dreams in the dusk
DREAMS in the dusk,
Only dreams closing the day
And with the day's close going back
To the gray things, the dark things,
The far, deep things of dreamland.
Dreams, only dreams in the dusk,
Only the old remembered pictures
Of lost days when the day's loss
Wrote in tears the heart's loss.
Tears and loss and broken dreams
May find your heart at dusk.
They offer you many things,
I a few.
Moonlight on the play of fountains at night
With water sparkling a drowsy monotone,
Bare-shouldered, smiling women and talk
And a cross-play of loves and adulteries
And a fear of death and a remembering of regrets:
All this they offer you.
I come with:
salt and bread
a terrible job of work
and tireless war;
Come and have now:
Old-fashioned Requited Love
I HAVE ransacked the encyclopedias
And slid my fingers among topics and titles
Looking for you.
And the answer comes slow.
There seems to be no answer.
I shall ask the next banana peddler the who and the why of it.
Or—the iceman with his iron tongs gripping a clear cube in summer sunlight—maybe he will know.
In a Back Alley
REMEMBRANCE for a great man is this.
The newsies are pitching pennies.
And on the copper disk is the man's face.
Dead lover of boys, what do you ask for now?
STRONG rocks hold up the riksdag bridge … always strong river waters shoving their shoulders against them …
In the riksdag to-night three hundred men are talking to each other about more potatoes and bread for the Swedish people to eat this winter.
In a boat among calm waters next to the running waters a fisherman sits in the dark and I, leaning at a parapet, see him lift a net and let it down … he waits … the waters run … the riksdag talks … he lifts the net and lets it down …
Stars lost in the sky ten days of drizzle spread over the sky saying yes-yes.
Every afternoon at four o’clock fifteen apple women who have sold their apples in Christiania meet at a coffee house and gab.
Every morning at nine o’clock a girl wipes the windows of a hotel across the street from the post-office in Stockholm.
I have pledged them when I go to California next summer and see the orange groves splattered with yellow balls
I shall remember other people half way round the world.