Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Prose Poem #4

Below is Carl Sandburg's "Wilderness." I am typing this from Sandburg Court, an
apartment complex in Chicago, how about that. There is a rough sketch of him in
the security office by an elevator I take, but I can't see any other note of this place
being his namesake.

Anyhow, this is a longer one, I guess. But Sandburg's phrasing is always evocative
of bodies and primal things, so reading him moves quickly. His sense of balance
with these paired "A & B," "sniff and guess" moments is great. I feel like he had a
slim secret dictionary full of power words when he wrote. Check out "The Mob,"
too, if you like this one.
                                        *                  *                * 


There is a wolf in me … fangs pointed for tearing gashes … a red 
tongue for raw meat … and the hot lapping of blood—I keep this 
wolf because the wilderness gave it to me and the wilderness will 
not let it go.

There is a fox in me … a silver-gray fox … I sniff and guess … I 
pick things out of the wind and air … I nose in the dark night and 
take sleepers and eat them and hide the feathers … I circle and 
loop and double-cross.

There is a hog in me … a snout and a belly … a machinery for 
eating and grunting … a machinery for sleeping satisfied in the 
sun—I got this too from the wilderness and the wilderness will 
not let it go.

There is a fish in me … I know I came from saltblue water-gates 
… I scurried with shoals of herring … I blew waterspouts with 
porpoises … before land was … before the water went down … 
before Noah … before the first chapter of Genesis.

There is a baboon in me … clambering-clawed … dog-faced … 
yawping a galoot’s hunger … hairy under the armpits … here 
are the hawk-eyed hankering men … here are the blond and 
blue-eyed women … here they hide curled asleep waiting … 
ready to snarl and kill … ready to sing and give milk … waiting
—I keep the baboon because the wilderness says so.

There is an eagle in me and a mockingbird … and the eagle 
flies among the Rocky Mountains of my dreams and fights 
among the Sierra crags of what I want … and the mockingbird 
warbles in the early forenoon before the dew is gone, warbles 
in the underbrush of my Chattanoogas of hope, gushes over the 
blue Ozark foothills of my wishes—And I got the eagle and the 
mockingbird from the wilderness.

O, I got a zoo, I got a menagerie, inside my ribs, under my bony 
head, under my red-valve heart—and I got something else: it is a 
man-child heart, a woman-child heart: it is a father and mother 
and lover: it came from God-Knows-Where: it is going to 
God-Knows-Where—For I am the keeper of the zoo: I say yes and 
no: I sing and kill and work: I am a pal of the world: I came from 
the wilderness.