Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, SANTA FE SKETCHES, by CARL SANDBURG



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SANTA FE SKETCHES, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: The valley was swept with a blue broom to the west
Last Line: "we forget."
Subject(s): Sante Fe, New Mexico


1

THE valley was swept with a blue broom to the west.

And to the west, on the fringes of a mesa sunset,
there are blue broom leavings, hangover blue wisps —
bluer than the blue floor the broom touched
before and after it caught the blue sweepings.

The valley was swept with a blue broom to the west.

2

When a city picks a valley—and a valley picks a city —
it is a marriage—and there are children.

Since the bluebirds come by twenties
and the blackbirds come by forties
in March, when the snow skirls in a sunshine wind;
since they come up the valley to the city, heading north,
it is taken as a testimony of witnesses.

Then the bluebird barriers drop,
when the redwing bars go down,
the flurries of sun flash now on the tail feathers —
it is up the valley—up and on —
by twenties and forties —
and the tail feathers flashing.

In the cuts of the red dirt arroyos,
at the change of the mist of the mountain waterfalls,
in cedars and piñons, at the scars and gashes,
at the patches where new corn will be planted,
at the Little Canyon of the Beans,
they stop and count how far they have come,
the twenties and forties stop and count.

Whoever expected them to remember,
to carry little pencils between their toes,
notebooks under their wings?
By twenties, by forties—it is enough;
"When wings come, and sun, and a new wind
out of the Southwest whispering —
and especially wings—we forget —
we forget."

They saw Navajos ride with spears and arrows,
Spaniards ride with blunderbusses,
cowboys ride with Colts and Winchesters —
they saw the changing shooting irons —
and now the touring-car and the flivver
creep up the red dirt valley, among the rabbit bushes,
passing the clean-piled clean-cut woodpiles
on the backs of mountain-born burros.

3

The valley sits with its thoughts.

"Have I not had my thoughts by myself
four hundred years?" she asks.

"Have I not seen the guns of Spain, Mexico
and America go up and down the valley?

"Is not holy faith and the name of a saint
in my name?

"Was I not called La Villa de Santa Fé de
San Francisco de Assisi?

"Do they not name a railroad from Chicago
to Los Angeles after me?

"Did they not give a two-thousand-mile wagon
trail of the first gold diggers, the forty-
niners, my name, the short pet name, Santa Fé?

4

By twenties and forties,
the bluebirds and the redwings,
out of the bars, the barriers,
in a flash of tail feathers
on and up the valley —
"When wings come
and the Southwest whispering,
we forget."

5

The valley city sits among its brooding facts,
"Six years ago—only ponies, bridles, saddles circled
around the public square, the plaza, the place of the
Summer band concerts —
And now—the varnished motor-cars stand with funeral
faces filling the old pony hitching places.

"I have seen candles keep the night watch till the coal
oil came and then the live wires —
Thirty miles away the mountain villages see two strings
of lights hung like Summer flies—the penitentiary night
lights of Santa Fé.

"The fast travelers with extra tires come in a hurry
and solve me and pass on to say all their lives,
'Santa Fé? oh, yes, Santa Fé, I have seen Santa Fé.'
'Hurry up,' is their first and last word on my zigzag
streets, my lazy 'dobe corners.
'Hurry up, we must see the Old Church, the Old Bell, the
Oldest House in the United States, touch the doors,
and then go on—hurry up!'

"They are afraid grass will grow under their feet—they
say so as a proverb —
And I am afraid they will knock loose some cool green
whisper of moss in a chink of a wall."

6

In April the little farmers go out in the foothills,
up the mountain patches.
They go to gamble against the weather, the rain.

"If the rain comes like last year, we shall have a fat
Winter,
If the rain comes like year before last, it is a lean
Christmas for us."

They put in their beans, the magic frijole, the chile,
they stretch open hands to the sky,
and tell the rain to come,
to come, come, come.
With a willing rain the gamblers win.
If the rain says, "Not this year," they lose.

So the little farmers go out in the foothills,
up the mountain patches in April,
telling every bean in the sack
to send up a wish to God
for water to come ... out of the sky.

7

A loose and changeable sky
looks on a loose and changeable land.

The rain rips the wagon road ruts
too deep for wheels—the wagons make a new road,
the rain makes a new little arroyo.

Pack burros tussling under bundled woodpiles go by
with eyes murmuring, "Everything is the same as it
always was."
The tough little tussling foot of a burro, the wag of a left
ear to a right ear, are they joking, "Everything is the
same as it always was?"

8

Proud and lazy Spaniards with your pearl swords of
conquest, your blunderbuss guns of flags and victory —

Who did you conquer and fasten down as your vassals?

The blood is dry and mixed in a mixing-bowl.
The passion kiss and the sunlit blaze of the
Indian woman's eye—the faces and the hair of Spain and
the Aztecs, Moors and the Navajos—are mixed in a mixing
bowl—and a passer-by writes:

"In Mexico nobody knows how to sing
and everybody sings."

Come back and pick up your pearl-handled swords,
your blunderbuss guns.
Sniff with the tourists in the Santa Fé Museum —
See them look at their stop-watches —
"A little gas now—and we're on our way—come on,
kid—on your way."

9

The valley was swept with a blue broom to the west,
there are blue broom leavings on the sky,
hangover blue wisps.

The valley city sits with its thoughts.
"Have I not had my thoughts by myself
four hundred years?" she asks.
"Do you wonder I sit here, shrewd, faded,
asking: What next? who next?
And answering: I don't care—let the
years worry."

10

By twenties and forties,
the bluebirds and redwings,
out of the bars, the barriers,
in a flash of tail feathers
on and up the valley —
"When wings come
and the Southwest whispering,
we forget."





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