Friday, January 22, 2016

Poetry Friday - Sandburg's Snow

Schools here are closed for a preemptive snow day. It doesn't look bad yet, but we are hunkered down for the weekend and hoping we don't lose power.

Today I'm sharing a poem from the book Smoke and Steel (1922) by Carl Sandburg.

VIII. Circles of Doors
4. Snow

SNOW took us away from the smoke valleys into white mountains, we saw velvet blue cows eating a vermillion grass and they gave us a pink milk.

Snow changes our bones into fog streamers caught by the wind and spelled into many dances.

Six bits for a sniff of snow in the old days bought us bubbles beautiful to forget floating long arm women across sunny autumn hills.

Our bones cry and cry, no let-up, cry their telegrams:
More, more—a yen is on, a long yen and God only knows when it will end.      

In the old days six bits got us snow and stopped the yen—now the government says: No, no, when our bones cry their telegrams: More, more.

The blue cows are dying, no more pink milk, no more floating long arm women, the hills are empty—us for the smoke valleys—sneeze and shiver and croak, you dopes—the government says: No, no.

I do hope you'll take some time today to check out all the wonderful poetic things being shared and collected by Tara Smith as A Teaching Life. Happy poetry Friday friends!


  1. I am imagining the history behind this, before any government help, but some cry out for some anyway, and it's useless? When I read a poem sometimes my imagination goes wild. What a harsh voice he has sometimes. Thanks for the poem. I talked to someone yesterday who told me about visiting Sandburg's home in Flatrock, N.C. which I didn't know of. He said it was wonderful. Here's the link, Tricia:

    1. Thank you, Linda! I have been there and it is lovely. I was particularly enchanted by the goat barn.

      I do find Sandburg harsh at times, but think he captures the grittiness of life so well.

    2. Telegrams

      ". . .our bones cry their telegrams."
      --Carl Sandberg

      Here they come once more,
      those yellow signal flags
      of pain, with a full stop
      at the end.

      Your son dead in battle.
      Mother fading.
      Mountain trembled.
      War begun.

      Each word counted,
      Paid for with silver.
      Clicks on a line,
      Small counters of life.

      Telegrams of anguish,
      Golden tickets of pain.
      Our bones the way station.
      Respite does not come easily,

      If ever again.

      ©2016 Jane Yolen all rights reserved

    3. I love your response to this, Jane. Sometimes Sandburg hurts to read, and other times his turn of phrase sticks with you. I'm glad one of them prompted you to this.

  2. This "Snow changes our bones into fog streamers caught by the wind and spelled into many dances" was so lovely that I was caught off-guard by what was to come.
    I hope you don't lose power!
    Enjoyed Jane's response.