Wilderness

Carl Sandburg

 

There is a wolf in me … fangs pointed for tearing gashes … a red tongue for raw meat … and the hot lapping of blood—I keep this wolf because the wilderness gave it to me and the wilderness will not let it go.

There is a fox in me … a silver-gray fox … I sniff and guess … I pick things out of the wind and air … I nose in the dark night and take sleepers and eat them and hide the feathers … I circle and loop and double-cross.

There is a hog in me … a snout and a belly … a machinery for eating and grunting … a machinery for sleeping satisfied in the sun—I got this too from the wilderness and the wilderness will not let it go.

There is a fish in me … I know I came from saltblue water-gates … I scurried with shoals of herring … I blew waterspouts with porpoises … before land was … before the water went down … before Noah … before the first chapter of Genesis.

There is a baboon in me … clambering-clawed … dog-faced … yawping a galoot’s hunger … hairy under the armpits … here are the hawk-eyed hankering men … here are the blond and blue-eyed women … here they hide curled asleep waiting … ready to snarl and kill … ready to sing and give milk … waiting—I keep the baboon because the wilderness says so.

There is an eagle in me and a mockingbird … and the eagle flies among the Rocky Mountains of my dreams and fights among the Sierra crags of what I want … and the mockingbird warbles in the early forenoon before the dew is gone, warbles in the underbrush of my Chattanoogas of hope, gushes over the blue Ozark foothills of my wishes—And I got the eagle and the mockingbird from the wilderness.

O, I got a zoo, I got a menagerie, inside my ribs, under my bony head, under my red-valve heart—and I got something else: it is a man-child heart, a woman-child heart: it is a father and mother and lover: it came from God-Knows-Where: it is going to God-Knows-Where—For I am the keeper of the zoo: I say yes and no: I sing and kill and work: I am a pal of the world: I came from the wilderness.

 
1918

Poems by This Author

At a Window by Carl Sandburg
Give me hunger
Autumn Movement by Carl Sandburg
I cried over beautiful things knowing no beautiful thing lasts
Back Yard by Carl Sandburg
Shine on, O moon of summer
Caboose Thoughts by Carl Sandburg
It's going to come out all right—do you know
Cahoots by Carl Sandburg
Play it across the table
Chicago by Carl Sandburg
Hog Butcher for the World,
Fire Dreams by Carl Sandburg
I remember here by the fire
Fog by Carl Sandburg
The fog comes
Follies by Carl Sandburg
Shaken
Four Preludes on Playthings of the Wind by Carl Sandburg
Grass by Carl Sandburg
Pile the bodies high at Austerlitz and Waterloo
Handfuls by Carl Sandburg
Blossoms of babies
Honky Tonk in Cleveland, Ohio by Carl Sandburg
It's a jazz affair, drum crashes and cornet razzes.
How Much? by Carl Sandburg
How much do you love me, a million bushels
I am the People, the Mob by Carl Sandburg
I am the people--the mob--the crowd--the mass.
In a Breath by Carl Sandburg
High noon. White sun flashes on the Michigan Avenue asphalt
Languages by Carl Sandburg
There are no handles upon a language
Loam by Carl Sandburg
In the loam we sleep
Mag by Carl Sandburg
I wish to God I never saw you, Mag.
Poems Done on a Late Night Car by Carl Sandburg
I am The Great White Way of the city
Prayers of Steel by Carl Sandburg
Lay me on an anvil, O God
Remorse by Carl Sandburg
The horse's name was Remorse
Summer Stars by Carl Sandburg
Bend low again, night of summer stars
Testament by Carl Sandburg
I give the undertakers permission to haul my body
Theme in Yellow by Carl Sandburg
I spot the hills
Under the Harvest Moon by Carl Sandburg
Under the harvest moon
Window by Carl Sandburg
Night from a railroad car window


Further Reading

Related Poems
Wolf Cento
by Simone Muench
Poems About Animals and Pets
27,000 Miles
by Albert Goldbarth
from The Kitten and Falling Leaves
by William Wordsworth
I Am! Said the Lamb [excerpt]
by Theodore Roethke
Jubilate Agno, Fragment B, [For I will consider my Cat Jeoffry]
by Christopher Smart
A Crocodile
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A List of Praises
by Anne Porter
A Noiseless Patient Spider
by Walt Whitman
Animals and Art
by Ron Padgett
At Bay
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At the Zoo
by William Makepeace Thackeray
Bats
by Paisley Rekdal
Darwin's Finches
by Deborah Digges
Eletelephony
by Laura Elizabeth Richards
Epitaph to a Dog
by George Gordon Byron
Flamingo Dreams
by William Saphier
Freedom in Ohio
by Jennifer Chang
From the Canal
by Michael Dickman
Gila
by Rigoberto González
Goldfish Are Ordinary
by Stacie Cassarino
Grasshopper
by Ron Padgett
Hawk
by Daniel Waters
Ho Ho Ho Caribou
by Joseph Ceravolo
horse vision
by Julian T. Brolaski
How Doth the Little Busy Bee
by Isaac Watts
Journey aka OR7
by Gerard Malanga
Leda and the Swan
by W. B. Yeats
Maine Seafood Company
by Matthew Dickman
Me and the Otters
by Dorothea Lasky
Mole
by Wyatt Prunty
Nonsense Alphabet
by Edward Lear
On Viewing the Skull and Bones of a Wolf
by Alexander Posey
Orkney Interior
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Prayer from a Mouse
by Sarah Messer
Psalm
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Quiet the Dog, Tether the Pony
by Marilyn Chin
Skunk Hour
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Testy Pony
by Zachary Schomburg
The Armadillo
by Elizabeth Bishop
The Barnacle and the Gray Whale
by Cecilia Llompart
The Bear
by Galway Kinnell
The Caterpillar
by Robert Graves
The Crocodile
by Lewis Carroll
The Dusk of Horses
by James Dickey
The Eagle
by Lord Alfred Tennyson
The Fly
by William Blake
The Future is an Animal
by Tina Chang
The Heavy Bear Who Goes With Me
by Delmore Schwartz
The Lorca Variations (XXVIII)
"For Turtles"

by Jerome Rothenberg
The Moose
by Elizabeth Bishop
The Paper Nautilus
by Marianne Moore
The Parakeets
by Alberto Blanco
The Purple Cow
by Gelett Burgess
The Return
by Frances Richey
The Snail
by William Cowper
The Tyger
by William Blake
The Windhover
by Gerard Manley Hopkins
Thing
by Rae Armantrout
To a Mouse,
by Robert Burns
Toad
by Diane Seuss
Turn of a Year
by Joan Houlihan
Wild Gratitude
by Edward Hirsch
Woodchucks
by Maxine Kumin