Poetry Review: “Evening Waterfall” by Carl Sandburg

SmStA bit of winter has finally come to the North Country… a dusting of snow that has stayed a few days. The lawns are, for the most part, white – at least those with not too much southern exposure.

Snow is part of winter. Here in the North Country it is its very essence. A winter without snow is like an autumn without gold…discombobulating to say the least. We enjoy the lack of cold andshovelable snow, yet still acutely feel their absence. We live conflicted. But conflicted living is, it seems, the essence of modern life.

Today’s crow poem comes from Sandburg’s third volume of poems,Smoke and Steel (1920). It is pure Sandburg… in tone, in language, in theme, and in subject.

Sandburg does the small poem well. His most well-known (and loved) poems tend to be his smaller ones: “Grass,” “Fog,” “Happiness.” This is because of Sandburg’s great ability to find the emotive heart of a thing. Clarity of vision leads to efficiency of language and meaning.

Sandburg’s depth continues to surprise and delight me. Over and over I ask myself, why did I wait so long to read Sandburg seriously?

Enjoy!

 

Evening Waterfall
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?

 

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

The crows lift their caw on the wind,
And the wind changed and was lonely.

and

Across the cattle-horns of early stars

 

I love the image of “the cattle-horns of early stars.” Only someone who had spent time on the great prairies, far from the ambient urban-glow of cities, could have come up with such a descriptive line.

Note: As I finish typing this, a family of four crows has just landed in the yard across the street. I fancy they have come to hear me reading Sandburg out loud….

 

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