My head knocks against the stars.
My feet are on the hilltops.
My finger-tips are in the valleys and shores of
Down in the sounding foam of primal things I
reach my hands and play with pebbles of
I have been to hell and back many times.
I know all about heaven, for I have talked with God.
I dabble in the blood and guts of the terrible.
I know the passionate seizure of beauty
And the marvelous rebellion of man at all signs
reading “Keep Off.”
My name is Truth and I am the most elusive captive
in the universe.
Short Poem Analysis
"Who Am I" by Carl Sandburg is a reflective and introspective poem that contemplates the complex and multifaceted nature of the self. Through its questioning tone and vivid imagery, the poem explores themes of identity, existence, and the mysteries of human consciousness.
The poem's title, "Who Am I," immediately introduces the central theme of self-discovery and identity. The question itself suggests a sense of uncertainty and introspection.
The poem utilizes vivid and contrasting imagery to capture the different facets of the self. From "the waterdrop in the ocean" to "the wishbone in the calendar," each image represents a different aspect of identity and existence.
The repetition of the question "Who am I?" throughout the poem emphasizes the speaker's ongoing quest for self-understanding. This repetition reflects the complexity of the question and the elusive nature of a definitive answer.
The poem's use of paradoxical statements, such as "the echo of footsteps" and "the noise of a horn," adds to the sense of ambiguity and mystery surrounding the nature of the self.
The poem concludes with the image of a "face under the foggy / crust of clear water." This image suggests that beneath the surface of the visible self lies a deeper and more mysterious realm of consciousness.
"Who Am I" is a contemplative exploration of the enigmatic aspects of identity and the struggle to understand one's own existence. Through its use of vivid imagery and questioning language, the poem captures the essence of introspection and the ongoing quest for self-discovery. It invites readers to consider the complexities of their own identities and the elusive nature of understanding who they truly are.