Carl Sandburg





Moonlight and Maggots

   The moonlight filters on the prairie.
   The land takes back an old companion.
   The young corn seems pleased with a visit.
   In Illinois, in Iowa, this moontime is on.
A bongo looks out and talks about the look of the moon
As if always a bongo must talk somewhat so in moontime —
   The moon is a milk-white love promise,
   A present for the young corn to remember.
   A caress for silk-brown tassels to come.
   Spring moon to autumn moon measures one harvest.
   All almanacs are merely so many moon numbers.
   A house dizzy with decimal points and trick figures
   And a belfry at the top of the world for sleep songs
   And a home for lonesome goats to go to —
Like now, like always, the bongo takes up a moon theme —
There is no end to the ancient kit-kats inhabiting the moon:
Jack and the beanstalk and Jacob’s ladder helped them up,
Cats and sheep, the albatross, the phoenix and the dodo-bird,
They are all living on the moon for the sake of the bongo —
Castles on the moon, mansions, shacks and shanties, ramshackle
Huts of tarpaper and tincans, grand real estate properties
Where magnificent rats eat tunnels in colossal cheeses,
Where the rainbow chasers take the seven prisms apart
And put them together again and are paid in moon money —
The flying dutchman, paul bunyan, saint paul, john bunyan,
The little jackass who coughs gold pieces when you say bricklebrit -
They are all there on the moon and the rent not paid
And the roof leaking and the taxes delinquent —
Like now, like always, the bongo jabbers of the moon,
Of cowsheds, railroad tracks, corn rows and cornfield corners
Finding the filter of the moon an old friend —
Look at it — cries the bongo — have a look! have a look!

   Well, what of it? comes the poohpooh —
Always the bongo is a little loony — comes the poohpooh,
The bongo is a poor fish and a long ways from home.
Be like me; be an egg, a hardboiled egg, a pachyderm
Practical as a buzzsaw and a hippopotamus put together.
Get the facts and no monkeybusiness what I mean.
The moon is a dead cinder, a ball of death, a globe of doom.
Long ago it died of lost motion, maggots masticated the surface of it
And the maggots languished, turned ice, froze on and took a free ride.
Now the sun shines on the maggots and the maggots make the moonlight.
The moon is a cadaver and a dusty mummy and a damned rotten investment.
The moon is a liability loaded up with frozen assets and worthless paper.
Only the lamb, the sucker, the come-on, the little lost boy, has time for the moon.

   Well — says the bongo — you got a good argument.
I am a little lost boy and a long ways from home.
I am a sap, a pathetic fish, a nitwit and a lot more and worse you couldn’t think of.
Nevertheless and notwithstanding and letting all you say be granted and acknowledged
The moon is a silver silhouette and a singing stalactite.
The moon is a bringer of fool’s gold and fine phantoms.
On the heaving restless sea or the fixed and fastened land
The moon is a friend for the lonesome to talk with.
The moon is at once easy and costly, cheap and priceless.
The price of the moon runs beyond all adding machine numbers
Summer moonmusic drops down adagio sostenuto whathaveyou.
Winter moonmusic practices the mind of man for a long trip.
The price of the moon is an orange and a few kind words.
Nobody on the moon says, I been thrown out of better places than this.
No one on the moon has ever died of arithmetic and hard words.
No one on the moon would skin a louse to sell the hide.
The moon is a pocket luckpiece for circus riders, for acrobats on the flying rings, for wild animal tamers.
I can look up at the moon and take it or leave.
The moon coaxes me: Be at home wherever you are.
I can let the moon laugh me to sleep for nothing.
I can put a piece of the moon in my pocket for tomorrow.
I can holler my name at the moon and the moon hollers back my name.
When I get confidential with the moon and tell secrets
The moon is a sphinx and a repository under oath.

 Yes Mister poohpooh
I am a poor nut, just another of God’s mistakes.
You are the tough bimbo, hard as nails, yeah.
You know enough to come in when it rains.
You know the way to the post office and I have to ask.
They might fool you the first time but never the second.
Thrown into the river you always come up with a fish.
You are a diller a dollar, I am a ten o’clock scholar.
You know the portent of the axiom: Them as has gits.
You devised that abracadabra: Get all you can keep all you get.

     We shall always be interfering with each other, forever be 
        arguing — you for the maggots, me for the moon.
Over our bones, cleaned by the final maggots as we lie recumbent, 
   perfectly forgetful, beautifully ignorant —
         There will settle over our grave illustrious tombs
         On nights when the air is clear as a bell
         And the dust and fog are shovelled off on the wind —
         There will sink over our empty epitaphs
                                         a shiver of moonshafts
                                         a line of moonslants.