Wilderness by Carl Sandburg

This is one of the more raw and powerful poems I’ve always loved. I understood it the first time I read it. It was in me.

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 salt-blue 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 blonde 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.

12 thoughts on “Wilderness by Carl Sandburg

  1. Oh, Rita, these words exceptionally powerful and yes they really spoke to me. We are all so complex with so many aspects and for Carl Sandburg to be able to pen so eloquently these aspects of which many in this world deny, again truly exceptional. Thank you for sharing this, my sister. 💕

    Liked by 1 person

      • Me either, Rita. You can bet on that. I’m the “wild card” in my bio family and I make some verrrrrrrry nervous. I had a really GOOD laugh with a brother today as we imagined a scenario with my control freak sister. Too funny. I scare the shit out of some. Tee hee …. Thank goodness hubby finally “gets” me. LOL …. and the ONLY reason I could laugh today was because I wrote the release within my post today which you read. Yep, slowly moving forward ….. ☺️

        Liked by 1 person

      • OH RITA!!!! I just read this comment after having had some really really hard days and YOU have got tears stinging my eyes. I refuse to do anything but head everything right on. I won’t do it. This is HELL that I’m going through right now but imagine, just imagine who I will be when I get through this hell. THAT is what keeps me from collapsing and saying this is too hard. Oh Baby, you better believe this is hard stuff … some days I’d prefer death then to do what I am. God bless you for acknowledging and validating what I am doing, my Sis, even what you don’t know regarding how I am speaking my truth to bio family who love labels, those who don’t even know me. Oh yeah, I’m NOT shutting down nor am I shutting up. Pray for me … I’m formulating a speech (my youngest bro is reading it for me) to be read at my Mother’s memorial. You know I write from my Heart … but I am having problems starting. Deep breath …. I can do this too!!! I LOVE YOU! 💖💖💖

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes you can do it! You know damned well I know what it’s like to be the one in the circle who won’t play fucking games. Your momma knew it too. She’s smiling down, thinking ‘oh heaven help them when she emerges with this new strength!’

        I love you too ❤️❤️❤️ keep swinging, my warrior sister.

        Liked by 1 person

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