On the Breakwater

Carl Sandburg’s collection of Chicago Poems was published in 1916, but I have repeatedly found that the near hundred-year-old words still apply. Then and now, the city is heartbreaking but achingly beautiful at the same time. Details have changed – just replace Sandburg’s Italians with Mexicans and his streetcars with L trains.

This poem, published in the same book as Chicago Poems but in a different set entitled Fogs and Fires, still speaks to me here-and-now. The season still applies, but the breakwater is in Rogers Park, beside a stand of dune grasses bending in a gentle breeze, with a view south of a dazzling, gleaming city, and to the east of us nothing but an auburn sky dissolving into the horizon.

Duration – 6 1/2 minutes

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Poem by Carl Sandburg (1878-1967)

On the breakwater in the summer dark, a man and a girl are sitting,
She across his knee and they are looking face into face
Talking to each other without words, singing rhythms in silence to each other.
A funnel of white ranges the blue dusk from an outgoing boat,
Playing its searchlight, puzzled, abrupt, over a streak of green
And two on the breakwater keep their silence, she on his knee.





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