Monday, August 8, 2005

Sleeping with Carl Sandburg

When I was growing up, my mother never really seemed to think of the long term effect of the small things in life, like how we'd feel about ourselves and others based on things she said and did, that at the time seemed inconsequential. I hope that I do a better job of minimizing the negatives and accentuating the positives through the small things I say to or do for/with my children.

Sometimes though, there are small things that no one else is really responsible for that make even more of a difference in a person's personality, the mental minutiae that life serves up can be just as detrimental, or beneficial. I will never forget hiding in the lilac bush as a child; the smell of lilacs still makes me feel safe, or the feeling of euphoria that the song "Maniac" still brings on. In the 5th grade in New York, we made box kites with tissue paper and drinking straws and flew them on the playground, and to this day, primary colors against sky blue can still fill me with awe.

I also remember reading - I loved to escape. One book in particular still stands out in my mind, with it's pale mint green (oh so retro) hard cover with a cityscape on the front with clouds in the sky - but the clouds were shaped like cat prints. I remember the cover graphics, but not the pictures on the inside. That's because the words inside painted a picture that overcame anything the illustrator had accomplished.

I loved that book, I literally slept with it on many a night. I read it until I knew it by heart, I read it until I could recite it in my sleep - I read it knowing that I'd live out my life trying to write just like the 'story' in it. Of course, I had little concept of poetry then, or how it differs from a story, but it was most definitely one of those little things that has affected me for the rest of my life.

Here is the text that was found in that little green book of mine:

by Carl Sandburg

The fog comes
on little cat feet.
It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.


  1. Wow, E. Only poem I ever memorized was, "There once was a man from Nantucket..." Now, c'mon, obviously I'm going for the joke here. >grin<

    I do understand your concern with what stimuli you as a parent you allow your children feel or experienced base on how you raise them. I wonder, sometimes, precisely how the stimuli I received has shaped me into the misfit I seem to have become. :-) And there must be something that spurned on my wanting to write but for the life of me I can't remember precisely what it was. An ongoing journal I started around 7th or 8th grade? Myh first short story that was not an assignment? I can't place my finger on it. But it sure has come in handy over the years, my writing, helping my deal with different situations, expressing need, loss, joy, etc. Refining and defining how I've felt at different stages in my life. And now, after my writing's come back to me - I can't imagine having gone as long as I had without it. I guess chat, by and large, replaced it. Now I just need to continue writing - AND YOU DO TOO! Hugs with ~ML! :-)

  2. and, does this little green book have a name?

  3. Great page !!! Greatings from Germany- Bottrop!!!

  4. Well, I won't swear to it, but I'd feel prett comfprtable saying it was titled "Fog," since that's all there was to the book was this poem.

  5. I'm gonna blame you. I had a book that I remember from the elementary school library. I used to take it out every time I stumbled across it. I can't for the life of me remember what it was. I'm thinking it might have been Charlotte's Web, but I'm not sure. I'm feeling real old right about now...

  6. lol it's my fault! (s'ok, I'm a mom and a wife, EVERYTHING is my fault!) Too bad my last comment makes me look like an illiterate drunk eh?

  7. no, just one that has a problem spelling comfortable...

  8. i had to memorize that poem as a kid!!

  9. That is one of my very favorites. But then again, you know me by my human form. My feline form is only on this level of existence occasionally.

    I wore out a copy of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass when I was growing up. I guess "Beautiful Soup" must've had a big impact on me!

  10. As my daughter stumbles in her Language Arts class trying to rote memorize the names of poems with authors and their favorite literary devices, I wonder if the awe that poetry inspires will be crushed for her. I slip poems, haiku, senryu in her lunch bag. She has Basho, cummings, and of course Sandburg with her sandwiches. It's what mothers can do to balance those small wounds they pick up in their daily lives.

  11. My dad used to recite poems and sing songs. He learned the lyrics to "Besa Me Mucho" from some filthy-mouthed guys at Pineland Military Institute in Salemburg, NC, when they were visiting from South America. I can't sing that song anymore without singing the perverted lyrics that would get me slapped in a room filled with Spanish Speakers. The original was "Kiss me, Kiss me a lot...." Dad's version involved kissing, but the pucker was placed strategically in a location where the sun doesn't shine.