Poetry Review: “Buffalo Dusk” by Carl Sandburg

Prairie Day (photo by m.a.h. hinton)

Summer Prairie Day (photo by m.a.h. hinton)

 

The first measurable snow of the year has finally fallen in our little corner of the North Country. Winter as we know it best has come at last to the North Country.

It is the season of cold suns, cracking trees, and empty fields. It is the time of the year when life seems to have fled the world and left it in the hands of pagan frost gods and ice demons.

It is beautiful and clean but still our minds turn towards memories of summer. For me it memories of short trips to the tall grass prairies of Southwest Minnesota. 

Here is a poem about prairies and bison.

Enjoy!

Buffalo Dusk
The buffaloes are gone.
And those who saw the buffaloes are gone.
Those who saw the buffaloes by thousands and how they pawed the prairie sod into dust with their hoofs, their great heads down pawing on in a great pageant of dusk,
Those who saw the buffaloes are gone.
And the buffaloes are gone.

 

Listening with a pencil and my ear, these are the lines I marked:

The buffaloes are gone.
And those who saw the buffaloes are gone. 

 

Sandburg is a master of the small poem. Here the reverse-repeat of the first two and final two lines “echo” in our ears and our imaginations the same way that thousand of “hoofs” once echoed across the Great Plains.

He also echoes words/ideas like: dust/dusk; great heads/great pageant; pawed/pawing. It is this echoing device that allows such a small poem sound so big.

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