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Sunday, August 21, 2011

Number 241: Carl Sandburg "At A Window"

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.

-- Carl Sandburg

Hap Notes: Here's a Sandburg poem that I recently found in a book, The Family Book of Best Loved Poems (copyright 1952). The poem can be found several places on the internet but there is something very appealing to me about going to a flea market and getting a book like this for 50¢ and diving for the treasures within (of which this poem is one of many.) I didn't even SEE the book at the flea market, my intrepid friend, who was with me, saw it and brought it to my attention, God bless her. The book holds few surprises and being a "family book" there won't be contemporary (for the 50s) confessional poetry but there are a plethora of old classics I am always going on about here on the blog like "Curfew Must Not Ring Tonight"

So while the internet held this very nice Sandburg poem, it was a far more happy thing to find it in the flea market find. Sandburg is asking the "fates" or the "gods" to give him hunger, pain, want, shame and failure but to not let him live without love. He's not just talking about sex or romance here, he's asking for a hand, a voice, a star to comfort his loneliness. It's a very nice poem and who does not feel the ache of loneliness as they watch the "day-shapes of dusk "? It's a time when you need a hopeful star, is it not?

Just a short aside about books of poetry, particularly collections like the flea market one I bought today which are a tad cloying and trite when read in big chunks: there's nothing like finding a treasure in an old chest like this book. I pity those not close to a public library who cannot find a few older books like this one because poetry is an art of layers and dimensions and varied threads and not all of it will appeal to everyone but all of it will appeal to someone.

Poetry is full of history lessons as well as social and political notations. Poetry tells you about the emotions and quotidian habits of men, women and children. Poetry gives new life to beauty and new beauty to life. While you can read the stuff online, a book full of it is heady stuff. One should not be allowed to read poetry and drive. One should be arrested for writing too much of it. One should get a king's ransom for finding old books full of it. The internet is an awesome tool but a book is an intellectual weapon far more advanced than that. You can hold a book, bend its pages, write in its margins, mark it with a fallen leaf, set your coffee cup on it, spill crumbs on it and it still works just like a book is supposed to. You can drop it on the floor a dozen or more times, step on it, leave it outside, use it as way to prop open a window or set it under a lamp to better its position and when you get back to reading it, it still works, it still tells you it's messages and secrets, it still waits for you.

Not all flea market books are fabulous reads but poetry collections are bound to have a couple of awesome poems, at least a few horrible (and sometimes amusing) stinkers and a handful of miraculous, surprising treasures. Treasures that you can buy at a flea market for 50¢. It's a remarkable bargain, especially compared to the internet (which I like very much, I'm just sayin'.)

Here's the last Sandburg poem we talked about (which will lead you to the others):

The masthead is Degas' "Woman at a Window".

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