The Sea Hold

Rebecca West’s collection of Carl Sandburg poetry found me while I was wandering through the shelves of the Wawona Library.  How do books wait for you, and then pounce like that?  His words spread out like the plains where he’s from: collections of so many small sights, settled in together among the low hills, until, after a long while, your eyes and ears recognize the lines of the much larger body, the grand, the beautiful, the sublime.


“The Sea Hold” – Carl Sandburg

The sea is large.

The Sea hold on a leg of land in the Chesapeake hugs an early sunset and a last morning star over the oyster beds and the late clam boats of lonely men.

Five white houses on a half-mile strip of land . . . five white dice rolled from a tube.

Not so long ago . . . the sea was large . . .And to-day the sea has lost nothing . . .  it keeps all.

I am a loon about the sea.
I make so many sea songs, I cry so many sea cries, I forget so many sea songs and sea cries.

I am a loon about the sea.
So are five men I had a fish fry with once in a tar-paper shack trembling in a sand storm.
The sea knows more about them than they know themselves.
They know only how the sea hugs and will not let go.

The sea is large.
The sea must know more than any of us.


The month of May found me, and so I have been writing, writing, writing, calling it my self-sponsored artist-in-residency, here in Yosemite National Park.  I just finished an essay I’ve been trying to write for the last two years.  It’s about Chicago, Sandburg’s Chicago.  I sent it off to a magazine.  We’ll see.  Pete’s job has begun, working as a Wilderness Ranger here in Wawona.  My job begins in a week, when I will join a restoration crew as we restore the Yosemite Wilderness.  I feel new.


The opening to “Potato Blossom Songs and Jigs” – Carl Sandburg

Rum tiddy um,
tiddy um,
tiddy um tum tum.
My knees are loose-like, my feet want to sling their selves . . .


One voice tells me to stop.  That I have nothing to share.  Another voice tells me I have stories.  And a third says that if you offer one well-composed sentence, that’s something.

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