poets I’m reading: Languages by Carl Sandburg

Poetry is a synthesis of hyacinths and biscuits.

Carl Sandburg (1878-1967)

Since I found these words hiding near the end of a list of 38 poetry definitions by Sandburg, I haven’t been able to stop saying them out loud. I almost wish he’d saved the phrase for a poem, it’s so delicious. Here’s my pick of his work today – a little something about impermanence.


Languages – Carl Sandburg

There are no handles upon a language

Whereby men take hold of it

And mark it with signs for its remembrance.

It is a river, this language,

Once in a thousand years

Breaking a new course

Changing its way to the ocean.

It is mountain effluvia

Moving to valleys

And from nation to nation

Crossing borders and mixing.

Languages die like rivers.

Words wrapped round your tongue today

And broken to shape of thought

Between your teeth and lips speaking

Now and today

Shall be faded hieroglyphics

Ten thousand years from now.

Sing – and singing – remember

Your song dies and changes

And is not here tomorrow

Any more than the wind

Blowing ten thousand years ago.

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