Arithmetic Poem Carl Sandburg Meaning
The child's wonder
At the old moon
Comes back nightly.
She points her finger
To the far silent yellow thing
Shining through the branches
Filtering on the leaves a golden sand,
Crying with her little tongue, "See the moon!"
And in her bed fading to sleep
With babblings of the moon on her little mouth.
THEY have taken the ball of earth
and made it a little thing.
They were held to the land and horses;
they were held to the little seas.
They have changed and shaped and welded;
they have broken the old tools and made
new ones; they are ranging the white
scarves of cloudland; they are bumping
the sunken bells of the Carthaginians
they are handling
the strongest sea
as a thing to be handled.
The earth was a call that mocked;
it is belted with wires and meshed with
steel; from Pittsburg to Vladivostok is
an iron ride on a moving house; from
Jerusalem to Tokyo is a reckoned span;
and they talk at night in the storm and
salt, the wind and the war.
They have counted the miles to the Sun
and Canopus; they have weighed a small
blue star that comes in the southeast
corner of the sky on a foretold errand.
We shall search the sea again.
We shall search the stars again.
There are no bars across the way.
There is no end to the plan and the clue,
the hunt and the thirst.
The motors are drumming, the leather leggings
and the leather coats wait:
Under the sea
and out to the stars
Baltic Fog Notes
(Bergen)SEVEN days all fog, all mist, and the turbines pounding through high seas.
I was a plaything, a rat’s neck in the teeth of a scuffling mastiff.
Fog and fog and no stars, sun, moon.
Then an afternoon in fjords, low-lying lands scrawled in granite languages on a gray sky,
A night harbor, blue dusk mountain shoulders against a night sky,
And a circle of lights blinking: Ninety thousand people here.
Among the Wednesday night thousands in goloshes and coats slickered for rain,
I learned how hungry I was for streets and people.
I would rather be water than anything else.
I saw a drive of salt fog and mist in the North Atlantic and an iceberg dusky as a cloud in the gray of morning.
And I saw the dream pools of fjords in Norway … and the scarf of dancing water on the rocks and over the edges of mountain shelves.
Bury me in a mountain graveyard in Norway.
Three tongues of water sing around it with snow from the mountains.
Bury me in the North Atlantic.
A fog there from Iceland will be a murmur in gray over me and a long deep wind sob always.
Bury me in an Illinois cornfield.
The blizzards loosen their pipe organ voluntaries in winter stubble and the spring rains and the fall rains bring letters from the sea.
Slang is a language that rolls up its sleeves, spits on its hands and goes to work.Carl Sandburg
Under a Hat Rim
WHILE the hum and the hurry
Of passing footfalls
Beat in my ear like the restless surf
Of a wind-blown sea,
A soul came to me
Out of the look on a face.
Eyes like a lake
Where a storm-wind roams
Caught me from under
The rim of a hat.
I thought of a midsea wreck
and bruised fingers clinging
to a broken state-room door.
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.
WHAT was the name you called me?—
And why did you go so soon?
The crows lift their caw on the wind,
And the wind changed and was lonely.
The warblers cry their sleepy-songs
Across the valley gloaming,
Across the cattle-horns of early stars.
Feathers and people in the crotch of a treetop
Throw an evening waterfall of sleepy-songs.
What was the name you called me?—
And why did you go so soon?
At a Window
Give me hunger,
O you gods that sit and give
The world its orders.
Give me hunger, pain and want,
Shut me out with shame and failure
From your doors of gold and fame,
Give me your shabbiest, weariest hunger!
But leave me a little love,
A voice to speak to me in the day end,
A hand to touch me in the dark room
Breaking the long loneliness.
In the dusk of day-shapes
Blurring the sunset,
One little wandering, western star
Thrust out from the changing shores of shadow.
Let me go to the window,
Watch there the day-shapes of dusk
And wait and know the coming
Of a little love.
LET the crows go by hawking their caw and caw.
They have been swimming in midnights of coal mines somewhere.
Let ’em hawk their caw and caw.
Let the woodpecker drum and drum on a hickory stump.
He has been swimming in red and blue pools somewhere hundreds of years
And the blue has gone to his wings and the red has gone to his head.
Let his red head drum and drum.
Let the dark pools hold the birds in a looking-glass.
And if the pool wishes, let it shiver to the blur of many wings, old swimmers from old places.
Let the redwing streak a line of vermillion on the green wood lines.
And the mist along the river fix its purple in lines of a woman’s shawl on lazy shoulders.
PASSING through huddled and ugly walls
By doorways where women
Looked from their hunger-deep eyes,
Haunted with shadows of hunger-hands,
Out from the huddled and ugly walls,
I came sudden, at the city's edge,
On a blue burst of lake,
Long lake waves breaking under the sun
On a spray-flung curve of shore;
And a fluttering storm of gulls,
Masses of great gray wings
And flying white bellies
Veering and wheeling free in the open
IF I had a million lives to live
and a million deaths to die
in a million humdrum worlds,
I’d like to change my name
and have a new house number to go by
each and every time I died
and started life all over again.
I wouldn’t want the same name every time
and the same old house number always,
dying a million deaths,
dying one by one a million times:
YOUR bony head, Jazbo, O dock walloper,
Those grappling hooks, those wheelbarrow handlers,
The dome and the wings of you, nigger,
The red roof and the door of you,
I know where your songs came from.
I know why God listens to your, “Walk All Over God’s Heaven.”
I heard you shooting craps, “My baby’s going to have a new dress.”
I heard you in the cinders, “I’m going to live anyhow until I die.”
I saw five of you with a can of beer on a summer night and I listened to the five of you
harmonizing six ways to sing, “Way Down Yonder in the Cornfield.”
I went away asking where I come from.
Portrait of a Motor Car
IT’S a lean car … a long-legged dog of a car … a gray-ghost eagle car.
The feet of it eat the dirt of a road … the wings of it eat the hills.
Danny the driver dreams of it when he sees women in red skirts and red sox in his sleep.
It is in Danny’s life and runs in the blood of him … a lean gray-ghost car.
TWO Swede families live downstairs and an Irish policeman upstairs, and an old soldier, Uncle Joe.
Two Swede boys go upstairs and see Joe. His wife is dead, his only son is dead, and his two daughters in Missouri and Texas don’t want him around.
The boys and Uncle Joe crack walnuts with a hammer on the bottom of a flatiron while the January wind howls and the zero air weaves laces on the window glass.
Joe tells the Swede boys all about Chickamauga and Chattanooga, how the Union soldiers crept in rain somewhere a dark night and ran forward and killed many Rebels, took flags, held a hill, and won a victory told about in the histories in school.
Joe takes a piece of carpenter’s chalk, draws lines on the floor and piles stove wood to show where six regiments were slaughtered climbing a slope.
“Here they went” and “Here they went,” says Joe, and the January wind howls and the zero air weaves laces on the window glass.
The two Swede boys go downstairs with a big blur of guns, men, and hills in their heads. They eat herring and potatoes and tell the family war is a wonder and soldiers are a wonder.
One breaks out with a cry at supper: I wish we had a war now and I could be a soldier.
TWENTY men stand watching the muckers.
Stabbing the sides of the ditch
Where clay gleams yellow,
Driving the blades of their shovels
Deeper and deeper for the new gas mains
Wiping sweat off their faces
With red bandanas
The muckers work on . . pausing . . to pull
Their boots out of suckholes where they slosh.
Of the twenty looking on
Ten murmer, "O, its a hell of a job,"
Ten others, "Jesus, I wish I had the job."
THE TELESCOPE picks off star dust
on the clean steel sky and sends it to me.
The telephone picks off my voice and
sends it cross country a thousand miles.
The eyes in my head pick off pages of
Napoleon memoirs … a rag handler,
a head of dreams walks in a sheet of
mist … the palace panels shut in nobodies
drinking nothings out of silver
helmets … in the end we all come to a
rock island and the hold of the sea-walls.
SOMEBODY’S little girl—how easy to make a sob story over who she was once and who she is now.
Somebody’s little girl—she played once under a crab-apple tree in June and the blossoms fell on the dark hair.
It was somewhere on the Erie line and the town was Salamanca or Painted Post or Horse’s Head.
And out of her hair she shook the blossoms and went into the house and her mother washed her face and her mother had an ache in her heart at a rebel voice, “I don’t want to.”
Somebody’s little girl—forty little girls of somebodies splashed in red tights forming horseshoes, arches, pyramids—forty little show girls, ponies, squabs.
How easy a sob story over who she once was and who she is now—and how the crabapple blossoms fell on her dark hair in June.
Let the lights of Broadway spangle and splatter—and the taxis hustle the crowds away when the show is over and the street goes dark.
Let the girls wash off the paint and go for their midnight sandwiches—let ’em dream in the morning sun, late in the morning, long after the morning papers and the milk wagons—
Let ’em dream long as they want to … of June somewhere on the Erie line … and crabapple blossoms.
FASTEN black eyes on me.
I ask nothing of you under the peach trees,
Fasten your black eyes in my gray with the spear of a storm.
The air under the peach blossoms is a haze of pink.
(March, 1919)A LIAR goes in fine clothes.
A liar goes in rags.
A liar is a liar, clothes or no clothes.
A liar is a liar and lives on the lies he tells and dies in a life of lies.
And the stonecutters earn a living—with lies—on the tombs of liars.
Aliar looks ’em in the eye
And lies to a woman,
Lies to a man, a pal, a child, a fool.
And he is an old liar; we know him many years back.
A liar lies to nations.
A liar lies to the people.
A liar takes the blood of the people
And drinks this blood with a laugh and a lie,
A laugh in his neck,
A lie in his mouth.
And this liar is an old one; we know him many years.
He is straight as a dog’s hind leg.
He is straight as a corkscrew.
He is white as a black cat’s foot at midnight.
The tongue of a man is tied on this,
On the liar who lies to nations,
The liar who lies to the people.
The tongue of a man is tied on this
And ends: To hell with ’em all.
To hell with ’em all.
It’s a song hard as a riveter’s hammer,
Hard as the sleep of a crummy hobo,
Hard as the sleep of a lousy doughboy,
Twisted as a shell-shock idiot’s gibber.
The liars met where the doors were locked.
They said to each other: Now for war.
The liars fixed it and told ’em: Go.
Across their tables they fixed it up,
Behind their doors away from the mob.
And the guns did a job that nicked off millions.
The guns blew seven million off the map,
The guns sent seven million west.
Seven million shoving up the daisies.
Across their tables they fixed it up,
The liars who lie to nations.
Out of the butcher’s job
And the boneyard junk the maggots have cleaned,
Where the jaws of skulls tell the jokes of war ghosts,
Out of this they are calling now: Let’s go back where we were.
Let us run the world again, us, us.
Where the doors are locked the liars say: Wait and we’ll cash in again.
So I hear The People talk.
I hear them tell each other:
Let the strong men be ready.
Let the strong men watch.
Let your wrists be cool and your head clear.
Let the liars get their finish,
The liars and their waiting game, waiting a day again
To open the doors and tell us: War! get out to your war again.
So I hear The People tell each other:
Look at to-day and to-morrow.
Fix this clock that nicks off millions
When The Liars say it’s time.
Take things in your own hands.
To hell with ’em all,
The liars who lie to nations,
The liars who lie to The People.
1THERE was a late autumn cricket,
And two smoldering mountain sunsets
Under the valley roads of her eyes.
There was a late autumn cricket,
A hangover of summer song,
Scraping a tune
Of the late night clocks of summer,
In the late winter night fireglow,
This in a circle of black velvet at her neck.
2In pansy eyes a flash, a thin rim of white light, a beach bonfire ten miles across dunes, a speck of a fool star in night’s half circle of velvet.
In the corner of the left arm a dimple, a mole, a forget-me-not, and it fluttered a hummingbird wing, a blur in the honey-red clover, in the honey-white buckwheat.