Potato Blossom Songs and Jigs

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Cornhuskers by Carl Sandburg
Potato Blossom Songs and Jigs
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POTATO BLOSSOM SONGS AND JIGS

Rum tiddy um,
tiddy um,
tiddy um tum tum.

My knees are loose-like, my feet want to sling their selves.

I feel like tickling you under the chin—honey—and a-asking: Why Does a Chicken Cross the Road?

When the hens are a-laying eggs, and the roosters pluck-pluck-put-akut and you—honey—put new potatoes and gravy on the table, and there ain't too much rain or too little:

Say, why do I feel so gabby ?
Why do I want to holler all over the place?

  

Do you remember I held empty hands to you

and I said all is yours
the handfuls of nothing?

  

I ask you for white blossoms.

I bring a concertina after sunset under the apple trees.

I bring out "The Spanish Cavalier" and "In the Gloaming, O My Darling."


The orchard here is near and home-like.

The oats in the valley run a mile.

Between are the green and marching potato vines.

The lightning bugs go criss-cross carrying a zigzag of fire: the potato bugs are asleep under their stiff and yellow-striped wings: here romance stutters to the western stars, "Excuse...me..."

  

Old foundations of rotten wood.

An old barn done-for and out of the wormholes ten-legged roaches shook up and scared by sunlight.

So a pickax digs a long tooth with a short memory.

Fire can not eat this rubbish till it has lain in the sun.

  

The story lags.

The story has no connections.

The story is nothing but a lot of banjo plinka planka plunks.


The roan horse is young and will learn: the roan horse buckles into harness and feels the foam on the collar at the end of a haul: the roan horse points four legs to the sky and rolls in the red clover: the roan horse has a rusty jag of hair between the ears hanging to a white star between the eyes.

  

In Burlington long ago

And later again in Ashtabula

I said to myself:

I wonder how far Ophelia went with Hamlet.

What else was there Shakespeare never told?

There must have been something.

If I go bugs I want to do it like Ophelia.

There was class to the way she went out of her head.

  

Does a famous poet eat watermelon?

Excuse me, ask me something easy.

I have seen farmhands with their faces in fried catfish on a Monday morning.


And the Japanese, two-legged like us,

The Japanese bring slices of watermelon into pictures.

The black seeds make oval polka dots on the pink meat.


Why do I always think of niggers and buck-and-wing dancing whenever I see watermelon?


Summer mornings on the docks I walk among bushel peach baskets piled ten feet high.

Summer mornings I smell new wood and the river wind along with peaches.

I listen to the steamboat whistle hong-honging, hong-honging across the town.

And once I saw a teameo straddling a street with a hay-rack load of melons.

  

Niggers play banjos because they want to.

The explanation is easy.


It is the same as why people pay fifty cents for tickets to a policemen's masquerade ball or a grocers-and-butchers' picnic with a fat man's foot race.

It is the same as why boys buy a nickel's worth of peanuts and eat them and then buy another nickel's worth.

Newsboys shooting craps in a back alley have a fugitive understanding of the scientific principle involved.

The jockey in a yellow satin shirt and scarlet boots, riding a sorrel pony at the county fair, has a grasp of the theory.

It is the same as why boys go running lickety-split

away from a school-room geography lesson
in April when the crawfishes come out
and the young frogs are calling
and the pussywillows and the cat-tails
know something about geography themselves.

  

I ask you for white blossoms.

I offer you memories and people.

I offer you a fire zigzag over the green and marching vines.

I bring a concertina after supper under the home-like apple trees.

I make up songs about things to look at:

potato blossoms in summer night mist filling the garden with white spots;
a cavalryman's yellow silk handkerchief stuck in a flannel pocket over the left side of the shirt, over the ventricles of blood, over the pumps of the heart.


Bring a concertina after sunset under the apple trees.

Let romance stutter to the western stars, "Excuse...me..."