Blue Silver

Carl Sandburg January 14, 2019
North American
3 min read
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Long ago when the years were dark and the black rains used to come with strong winds and blow the front porches off houses, and pick chimneys off houses, and blow them onto other houses, long ago when people had understanding about rain and wind, there was a rich man with a daughter he loved better than anything else in the world. And one night when the black rain came with a strong wind blowing off front porches and picking off chimneys, the daughter of the rich man fell asleep into a deep sleep. In the morning they couldn’t wake her.

The black rain with the strong wind kept up all that day while she kept on sleeping in a deep sleep. Men and women with music and flowers came in, boys and girls, her playmates, came in—singing songs and calling her name. And she went on sleeping. All the time her arms were crossed on her breast, the left arm crossing the right arm like a letter X. Two days more, five days, six, seven days went by—and all the time the black rain with a strong wind blowing—and the daughter of the rich man never woke up to listen to the music nor to smell the flowers nor to hear her playmates singing songs and calling her name.

She stayed sleeping in a deep sleep—with her arms crossed on her breast—the left arm crossing the right arm like a letter X. So they made a long silver box, just long enough to reach from her head to her feet. And they put on her a blue silver dress and a blue silver band around her forehead and blue silver shoes on her feet. There were soft blue silk and silver sleeves to cover her left arm and her right arm—the two arms crossed on her breast like the letter X. They took the silver box and carried it to a corner of the garden where she used to go to look at blue lilacs and climbing blue morning glories in patches of silver lights. Among the old leaves of blue lilacs and morning glories they dug a place for the silver box to be laid in. And men and women with music and flowers stood by the silver box, and her old playmates, singing songs she used to sing—and calling her name. When it was all over and they all went away they remembered one thing most of all. And that was her arms in the soft silk and blue silver sleeves, the left arm crossing over the right arm like the letter X.

Somebody went to the king of the country and told him how it all happened, how the black rains with a strong wind came, the deep sleep, the singing playmates, the silver box— and the soft silk and blue silver sleeves on the left arm crossing the right arm like the letter X. Before that there never was a letter X in the alphabet. It was then the king said, “We shall put the crossed arms in the alphabet} we shall have a new letter called X, so everybody will understand a funeral is beautiful if there are young singing playmates.”


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