Kiss Me

Carl Sandburg January 14, 2019
North American
4 min read
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Many years ago when pigs climbed chimneys and chased cats up into the trees, away back, so they say, there was a lumber king who lived in a river city with many wildcats in the timbers nearby. And the lumber king said, “I am losing my hair and my teeth and I am tired of many things; my only joy is a daughter who is a dancing shaft of light on the ax handles of morning.”

She was quick and wild, the lumber king’s daughter. She had never kissed. Not her mother nor father nor any sweetHeart ever had a love print from her lips. Proud she was. They called her Kiss Me. She didn’t like that name, Kiss Me. They never called her that when she was listening. If she happened to be listening they called her Find Me, Lose Me, Get Me. They never mentioned kisses because they knew she would run away and be what her father called her, “a dancing shaft of light on the ax handles of morning.” But—when she was not listening they asked, “Where is Kiss Me to-day?” Or they would say, “Every morning Kiss Me gets more beautiful—I wonder if she will ever in her young life get a kiss from a man good enough to kiss her.”

One day Kiss Me was lost. She went out on a horse with a gun to hunt wildcats in the timbers near by. Since the day before, she was gone. All night she was out in a snowstorm with a horse and a gun hunting wildcats. And the storm of the blowing snow was coming worse on the second day. It was then the lumber king called in a long, loose, young man with a leather face and hay in his hair. And the king said, “Flax Eyes, you are the laziest careless man in the river lumber country—go out in the snowstorm now, among the wildcats, where Kiss Me is fighting for her life—and save her.” “I am the hero. I am the man who knows how. I am the man who has been waiting for this chance,” said Flax Eyes. On a horse, with a gun, out into the snow- storm Flax Eyes rode that day. Far, far away he rode to where Kiss Me, the quick wild Kiss Me, was standing with her back against a big rock fighting off the wildcats. In that country the snowstorms make the wildcats wilder—and Kiss Me was tired of shooting wildcats, tired of fighting in the snow, nearly ready to give up and let the wild- cats have her.

Then Flax Eyes came. The wildcats jumped at him, and he threw them off. More wildcats came, jumping straight at his face. He took hold of those wildcats by the necks and threw them over the big rock, up into the trees, away into the snow and the wind. At last he took all the wildcats one by one and threw them so far they couldn’t come back. He put Kiss Me on her horse, rode back to the lumber king and said lazy and careless, “This is us.”

The lumber king saw the face of Flax Eyes was all covered with cross marks like the letter X. And the lumber king saw the wild- cats had torn the shirt off Flax Eyes and on the skin of his chest, shoulders, arms, were the cross marks of the wildcats’ claws, cross marks like the letter X. So the king went to the men who change the alphabets and they put the cross marks of the wildcats’ claws, for a new letter, the letter X, near the end of the alphabet. And at the wedding of Kiss Me and Flax Eyes, the men who change the alphabets came with wildcat claws crossed like the letter X.


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