Carl Sandburg

(6 January 1878 – 22 July 1967 / Illinois)

North Atlantic


WHEN the sea is everywhere
from horizon to horizon ..
when the salt and blue
fill a circle of horizons ..
I swear again how I know
the sea is older than anything else
and the sea younger than anything else.

My first father was a landsman.
My tenth father was a sea-lover,
a gipsy sea-boy, a singer of chanties.
(Oh Blow the Man Down!)

The sea is always the same:
and yet the sea always changes.

The sea gives all,
and yet the sea keeps something back.

The sea takes without asking.
The sea is a worker, a thief and a loafer.
Why does the sea let go so slow?
Or never let go at all?

The sea always the same
day after day,
the sea always the same
night after night,
fog on fog and never a star,
wind on wind and running white sheets,
bird on bird always a sea-bird—
so the days get lost:
it is neither Saturday nor Monday,
it is any day or no day,
it is a year, ten years.

Fog on fog and never a star,
what is a man, a child, a woman,
to the green and grinding sea?
The ropes and boards squeak and groan.

On the land they know a child they have named Today.
On the sea they know three children they have named:
Yesterday, Today, To-morrow.

I made a song to a woman:—it ran:
I have wanted you.
I have called to you
on a day I counted a thousand years.

In the deep of a sea-blue noon
many women run in a man's head,
phantom women leaping from a man's forehead
.. to the railings … into the sea … to the
sea rim …
.. a man's mother … a man's wife … other
women …

I asked a sure-footed sailor how and he said:
I have known many women but there is only one sea.
I saw the North Star once
and our old friend, The Big Dipper,
only the sea between us:
"Take away the sea
and I lift The Dipper,
swing the handle of it,
drink from the brim of it."

I saw the North Star one night
and five new stars for me in the rigging ropes,
and seven old stars in the cross of the wireless
plunging by night,
plowing by night—
Five new cool stars, seven old warm stars.

I have been let down in a thousand graves by my kinfolk.
I have been left alone with the sea and the sea's wife, the wind, for my last friends
And my kinfolk never knew anything about it at all.

Salt from an old work of eating our graveclothes is here.
The sea-kin of my thousand graves,
The sea and the sea's wife, the wind,
They are all here to-night
between the circle of horizons,
between the cross of the wireless
and the seven old warm stars.

Out of a thousand sea-holes I came yesterday.
Out of a thousand sea-holes I come to-morrow.

I am kin of the changer.
I am a son of the sea
and the sea's wife, the wind.

Submitted: Tuesday, January 21, 2014
Edited: Tuesday, January 21, 2014

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