Regular readers of MontanaWriter know that inspired by a visit this summer to Galesburg, Illinois, and Carl Sandburg’s birthplace and burial site I have been reading my way through Sandburg’s Collected Poems. (Reading a poet’s collected work cover-to-cover remains after all the best –the only– way to ultimately understand a poet.) The process has been… a creative reawakening and a true joy. So often have I found myself saying, “why did it take me so long to return to Sandburg?”
Tomorrow I take my eldest daughter to Iowa to begin her college career. I am feeling the thousand things that all parents feel at such times: nostalgic and sad and proud. Most of all I think I find myself feeling baffled by the way time moves so quickly and steadily towards… dust and mist.
With thoughts of time and my own finitude swirling through my head, “Last Answers” came quickly to my mind this morning. It comes from Sandburg’s first, and best known book Chicago Poems.
On the day before I take Dylan to college, “Last Answers” seems like just the thing.
I wrote a poem on the mist
And a woman asked me what I meant by it.
I had thought till then only of the beauty of the mist,
how pearl and gray of it mix and reel,
And change the drab shanties with lighted lamps at evening
into points of mystery quivering with color.
The whole world was mist once long ago and some day
it will all go back to mist,
Our skulls and lungs are more water than bone and
And all poets love dust and mist because all the last
Go running back to dust and mist.