Carl Sandburg’s “Wind Song”

Wind-blown white prickly poppies (Argemone albiflora) near the Colorado River
(click image for greater size and detail)


Long ago I learned how to sleep
In an old apple orchard where the wind swept by counting its money and throwing it away,
In a wind-gaunt orchard where the limbs forked out and listened or never listened at all,
In a passel of trees where the branches trapped the wind into whistling, “Who, who are you?”
I slept with my head in an elbow on a summer afternoon and there I took a sleep lesson.
There I went away saying: I know why they sleep, I know how they trap the tricky winds.
Long ago I learned how to listen to the singing wind and how to forget and how to hear the deep whine,
Slapping and lapsing under the day blue and the night stars:
Who, who are you?
Who can ever forget
listening to the wind go by
counting its money
and throwing it away?


Comments always are welcome.

26 thoughts on “Carl Sandburg’s “Wind Song”

  1. The stringy-bark gumtree
    words in magic scribble
    yet understood and carried
    across red saltpan creek

    All blown about at will
    its magic in dream-time
    not lost ancient tribes
    listen with ears on bark

    1. I really enjoy it when your quite different environment peeks out from behind your words: for example, “its magic in dream-time.”

      As a site about the Dreaming puts it, “Because the ancestors did not disappear at the end of the Dreaming, but remained in these sacred sites, the Dreaming is never-ending, linking the past and the present, the people and the land.” I think Sandburg would have understood that, perfectly. He’d see it as another sleep lesson.

  2. Oh, how very timely, Linda! Love both the poem and the photo. So much lightness in those flowers. Ours are blooming too, down the road, two tall prickly poppies, I was watching them this morning sway back and forth in the crazy winds we are having. I kept wondering, why they live with the winds like that, and why won’t they let their seeds fly some place less windy. Their heads like sound catchers, maybe they just like to listen. I love this flower. I had it posted on my Facebook today. :) Temps are dropping from 87 to 33 tomorrow night, and my tomatoes are not happy. Throwing the money away to the wind and the plant covers. :)

    1. Well, consider this: if they lived somewhere less windy, their seeds couldn’t fly. They’d drop to the ground at the base of the plant, and soon things would be so crowded their flowers couldn’t sway back and forth and give you such delight.

      I love the thought of them as sound-catchers, too: listening to wind-song, bird-song — even songs we can’t hear.

      From 87 to 33? That’s not good. Tuck those tomatoes in, nice and snug.

  3. I know these, being white, are among your favorite wildflowers. By coincidence I photographed some in my neighborhood this morning. I found one with a petal strangely embedded in the ball of stamens.

    1. They’re favorites, indeed. In this same field, I finally found some of the insects that like to munch on the petals, leaving them looking like Swiss cheese. There’s always something new.

  4. When I saw the photo I thought “White California Poppies.” Well, not quite but almost! They are beautiful and so wonderful against that sky. Your words capture the feeling of the day so very well. Lovely, my friend.

    1. Our March winds decided to linger through April — and they did it with a vengeance. I think the fishermen were the most unhappy, but there is something lovely about windblown grasses and flowers. I’m glad you like them. There are poppies galore in my files now, so I’ll no doubt bring out a few more.

  5. We’re no stranger to the wind up here in the flatlands, where trees are few and the wind wails when it is sliced through the utility wires. Sandburg’s wind sings a very different tune than our harum scarum wind.

    I’m going to have to think about the wind “counting its money and throwing it away.” Not sure where he’s going with that one.

    1. Isn’t that a great line? I thought he might be opposing it to King Midas, who spent all his time counting his gold, and hanging on to it for dear life.

      Your comment about the wind wailing as it slices through the utility lines reminds me of the ways masts and rigging will whine in a strong wind. Not only that, when i was down at the Brazoria Wildlife Refuge a couple of months or more ago, I kept a hearing a sound that reminded me of wind in a mast. I finally found the source. Many of the cattails had split, and the wind blowing over them was creating that unearthly sound — much like an Aeolian harp.

  6. Nice pairing of poem and picture. I’m assuming the wind is counting paper money, like musical banknotes and rustling leaves, like leaves of sheet music, but it also occurs to me, that when Sandburg wrote this, coins were much silvery and musical-sounding.

    1. And that reminds me of the habit so many men of my father’s generation had: jingling coins in their pocket. I always wondered about that — whether it was a gesture of reassurance for guys who spent a good bit of WWII and the Depression without two coins to rub together: musically or not.

  7. What a lovely image, wind “counting its money and throwing it away”! And your poppies are splendid, Linda. I’ve never seen white ones. The ones I’ve noticed are a striking orange-red, none of which are in bloom here yet.

    1. Other than our white ones, I’ve only seen the orange-red, some pink, and the lovely yellow-orange California native poppy. I still like my white best, but for sheer drama, you can’t beat the blue poppies. Don’t get too excited, though. They won’t grow in your area, or in mine.

  8. I wanted to weigh in too on how pretty this image is!! I love it all, the colors, clarity and the movement of wind on delicate petals. So pretty!!

    1. When I found this field of poppies, there was no way I was going to pass it by — despite the 25-30 mph wind! We’ve had one of the windiest springs I can remember, but I’ve learned a bit about coping with it. This image certainly was worth the effort. I think it’s pretty, too –I’m glad you like it!

  9. Any poppy is a good one, and these are breathtaking. The way you observed them – from below, against the expanse of sky, blowing in the wind – expresses their nature so beautifully. The petals are about to become clouds…
    Your text inspires such interesting comments, too – I know I don’t have to tell you that. I love Gerard’s poem, and your reply to WOL about that sound. Again, an echo – I wrote today about an ethereal sound the wind makes when it sails through the Organ Pipe cactus plant.

    1. Petals about to become clouds — what a nice image. And isn’t it interesting how wind blowing across so many things stirs memories? Even as kids, blowing across the top of an empty soda bottle stirred something more than our usual kid-joy in making noise.

      It just struck me that no one’s mentioned (and I haven’t thought of) The Wind in the Willows. That was a different sort of wind, stirring life in different ways, but it holds one of my favorite quotations: “Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.” Now, of course, I’ve come to see the wisdom in shortening it a bit — messing about in deserts, or prairies, or libraries is pretty good, too. It’s the messing around that’s important.

      1. You’re right, something about a certain kind of wind…it releases thoughts I think, frees the mind to blow into places that are fresher, and maybe the sensation was so good as a child that seeing or feeling it again brings all that back. Stabbing in the dark here. But why not.
        I hope your day includes some messing about, though I suspect most of the stuff you do in boats isn’t very messy. :-) Happy Friday!

  10. That was a very emotive poem and gorgeous photo….how I love the wind, walking with it and being lulled to sleep while it howls around the

    1. I like the wind, too. Even when it makes work a challenge, there’s something wonderful about being out on the docks when it’s driven everyone else to shelter. What I can’t figure out is why I remember blizzard winds as being different than our winds here on the coast. They always seemed more vocal, somehow — but every wind is a good sleeping wind.

  11. This picture and verse reminds me of laying in the backyard grass in the summer as a kid doing nothing other than watching the clouds, listening to the flapping of dry white sheets on the line – and those lovely smells.

    1. Now that you mention it, those poppy petals do look like sheets on a line, blowing in the wind. This much is sure — anyone who buys laundry detergent or dryer sheets named “White Linen” or “Fresh Aire” never has had the experience you describe, and that I remember. Some things can’t be replicated in a chemistry lab.

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