4.11.2009

Kinder, Gentler Machine Gun Hand

The title has nothing to do with the post, really. Well, maybe in some dark, subconscious way. Or maybe not.

I just remembered how much I love this poem by Carl Sandburg. We read it when I student taught, during our Romeo & Juliet unit. It was so much fun to perform. And I think what I love best is, I can find something in each stanza that I'm nodding along to. See if the same holds true for you.


Here's an excerpt:

Little Word, Little White Bird

Love, is it a cat with claws and wild mate screams
in the black night?
Love, is it a bird--a goldfinch with a burnish
on its wingtips or a little gray sparrow
picking crumbs, hunting crumbs?
Love, is it a tug at the heart that comes high and
costs, always costs, as long as you have it?
Love, is it a free glad spender, ready to spend to
the limit, and then go head over heels in debt?
Love, can it hit one without hitting two and leave
the one lost and groping?
Love, can you pick it up like a mouse and put it in
your pocket and take it to your room and bring it
out of your pocket and say,
O here is my love,
my little pretty mousey love?

Yes--love, this little word you hear about,
is love an elephant and you step out of the way
where the elephant comes trampling, tromping,
traveling with big feet and long flaps of
drooping ears and straight white ivory tusks--
and you step out of the way with respect,
with high respect, and surprise near to shock
as you say,
Dear God, he's big,
big like stupendous is big,
heavy and elephantine and funny,
immense and slow and easy.
I'm asking, is love an elephant?

Or could it be love is a snake--like a rattlesnake,
like a creeping winding slithering rattlesnake
with fangs--poison fangs they tell me,
and when the bite of it gets you
then you run crying for help
if you don't fall cold and dead on the way.
Can love be a snake?

Or would you say love is a flamingo, with pink feathers--
a soft sunset pink, a sweet gleaming naked pink--
and with enough long pink feathers
you could make the fan for a fan dance
and hear a person telling their lover,
Speak, my chosen one,
and give me your wish
as to what manner of fan dance
you would have from me
in the cool of evening
or the black velvet sheen of midnight.
Could it be love is a flamingo?

Or is love a big red apple, and you don't know
whether to bite into it--and you knock on wood
and call off your luck numbers and hold your breath--
and you put your teeth into it and get a mouthful,
tasting all there is to it,
and whether it's sweet and wild
or a dry mush you want to spit out,
it's something else than you expected.
I'm asking, sir, is love a big red apple?

And I've heard some say love is a spy and a sneak,
a blatherer, a gabby mouth,
tattling and tittering as it tattles,
and you believe it and take it to your heart
and nurse it like good news,
like heaven-sent news meant for you
and you only--precious little you.
Have you heard love comes creeping and cheating like that?


Here's the whole thing.

2 comments:

Rastamick61 said...

Thinking it could be a chinchilla too. Softest creature on earth but watch those 2 little front teeth... well done.

Ms. X said...

Love this.