The fog comes
on little cat feet.
It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.
I know what you’re thinking. It’s short. Yes, perhaps there isn’t much to talk about or any hidden meaning. However, rather than picking something apart like I did with Peacock’s “The Lull,” I think it’s important to just appreciate the poem. It captures a moment so skillfully by transmitting several images all at once. Not to mention that I admire how Sandburg uses quiet, soft language to tell a story; it gives me such a cozy feeling.
If you don’t understand what I mean, try reading it out loud. Poetry is meant to be spoken after all. Professor Fanning once said that “a poem doesn’t become alive until it leaves the page,” and is heard by other people.
Remember to pace yourself.
So? Did you notice how the short words sort of bounce on your tongue while the longer ones sort of lingered in your mouth? The poem is quick in the first two lines, then slows down at “looking/ over harbor and city/ on silent haunches.” I know it sounds weird, but the pace itself enhances the images, because you have a fog swooping into this place and staying silently for a moment. Personally I love the sounds, too: the subtle S-sounds, and the stronger words – such as “little,” “sits,” “city” and “haunches” – tucked in between the more soft-spoken ones. It’s beautiful.
Besides it’s cool that Sandburg chooses a cat to personify the fog, because they’re both quiet beings that come and go as they please pretty much. True, it’s difficult to actually picture the fog, because the cat watching over the landscape is in the way of our mind’s eye. Specifically with the word “haunches,” which means ‘a buttock and thigh considered together’ (according to Google), so we see a cat sitting down. You only “see” the fog in the first line and since I know that the poet lived in San Francisco, that’s the place I’m picturing. I think the point of having the animal is to display an emotion that the fog can bring.
Mystery, curiosity, peace. Maybe the idea that there’s something inside the fog (depends on whether or not you’re fond of cats actually). Then from the poet’s point of view, it may be pure appreciation for San Francisco since the fog “looks over harbor and city.”
What do you guys think of “Fog”?
See you next week. Class dismissed.