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Carl sandburg

Carl Sandburg

POEMS
FOLLOWERS
6

I AM singing to you
Soft as a man with a dead child speaks;
Hard as a man in handcuffs,
Held where he cannot move:

     Under the sun
Are sixteen million men,
Chosen for shining teeth,
Sharp eyes, hard legs,
And a running of young warm blood in their wrists.

     And a red juice runs on the green grass;
And a red juice soaks the dark soil.
And the sixteen million are killing. . . and killing
          and killing.

     I never forget them day or night:
They beat on my head for memory of them;
They pound on my heart and I cry back to them,
To their homes and women, dreams and games.

     I wake in the night and smell the trenches,
And hear the low stir of sleepers in lines—
Sixteen million sleepers and pickets in the dark:
Some of them long sleepers for always,

Some of them tumbling to sleep to-morrow for always,
Fixed in the drag of the world’s heartbreak,
Eating and drinking, toiling. . . on a long job of
          killing.
Sixteen million men.

YOU have loved forty women, but you have only one thumb.
You have led a hundred secret lives, but you mark only
     one thumb.
You go round the world and fight in a thousand wars and
     win all the world’s honors, but when you come back
     home the print of the one thumb your mother gave
     you is the same print of thumb you had in the old
     home when your mother kissed you and said good-by.
Out of the whirling womb of time come millions of men
and their feet crowd the earth and they cut one anothers’
     throats for room to stand and among them all
     are not two thumbs alike.
Somewhere is a Great God of Thumbs who can tell the
     inside story of this.

WISHES left on your lips
The mark of their wings.
Regrets fly kites in your eyes.

NOW that a crimson rambler  
    begins to crawl over the house  
    of our two lives—  
 
Now that a red curve  
    winds across the shingles—        
 
Now that hands  
    washed in early sunrises  
    climb and spill scarlet  
    on a white lattice weave—  
 
Now that a loop of blood          
    is written on our roof  
    and reaching around a chimney—  
 
How are the two lives of this house  
    to keep strong hands and strong hearts?

The voice of the last cricket
across the first frost
is one kind of good-by.
It is so thin a splinter of singing.

KEEP a red heart of memories
Under the great gray rain sheds of the sky,
Under the open sun and the yellow gloaming embers.
Remember all paydays of lilacs and songbirds;
All starlights of cool memories on storm paths.

Out of this prairie rise the faces of dead men.
They speak to me. I can not tell you what they say.

Other faces rise on the prairie.
  They are the unborn. The future.

Yesterday and to-morrow cross and mix on the skyline
The two are lost in a purple haze. One forgets. One waits.

In the yellow dust of sunsets, in the meadows of vermilion eight o’clock June nights... the dead men and the unborn children speak to me... I can not tell you what they say... you listen and you know.

I don’t care who you are, man:
I know a woman is looking for you
and her soul is a corn-tassel kissing a south-west wind.
(The farm-boy whose face is the color of brick-dust, is calling the cows; he will form the letter X with crossed streams of milk from the teats; he will beat a tattoo on the bottom of a tin pail with X’s of milk.)

I don’t care who you are, man:
I know sons and daughters looking for you
And they are gray dust working toward star paths
And you see them from a garret window when you laugh
At your luck and murmur, 'I don’t care.’

I don’t care who you are, woman:
I know a man is looking for you
And his soul is a south-west wind kissing a corn-tassel.

(The kitchen girl on the farm is throwing oats to the chickens and the buff of their feathers says hello to the sunset’s late maroon.)

I don’t care who you are, woman:
I know sons and daughters looking for you
And they are next year’s wheat or the year after hidden in the dark and loam.

My love is a yellow hammer spinning circles in Ohio, Indiana. My love is a redbird shooting flights in straight lines in Kentucky and Tennessee. My love is an early robin flaming an ember of copper on her shoulders in March and April. My love is a graybird living in the eaves of a Michigan house all winter. Why is my love always a crying thing of wings?

On the Indiana dunes, in the Mississippi marshes, I have asked: Is it only a fishbone on the beach?
Is it only a dog’s jaw or a horse’s skull whitening in the sun? Is the red heart of man only ashes? Is the flame of it all a white light switched off and the power house wires cut?

Why do the prairie roses answer every summer? Why do the changing repeating rains come back out of the salt sea wind-blown? Why do the stars keep their tracks? Why do the cradles of the sky rock new babies?

STUFF of the moon
Runs on the lapping sand
Out to the longest shadows.
Under the curving willows,
And round the creep of the wave line,
Fluxions of yellow and dusk on the waters
Make a wide dreaming pansy of an old pond in the night.

TAKE a hold now
On the silver handles here,
Six silver handles,
One for each of his old pals.

Take hold
And lift him down the stairs,
Put him on the rollers
Over the floor of the hearse.

Take him on the last haul,
To the cold straight house,
The level even house,
To the last house of all.

     The dead say nothing
     And the dead know much
     And the dead hold under their tongues
     A locked-up story.

I WANTED a man’s face looking into the jaws and throat
     of life
With something proud on his face, so proud no smash
     of the jaws,
No gulp of the throat leaves the face in the end
With anything else than the old proud look:
          Even to the finish, dumped in the dust,
          Lost among the used-up cinders,
          This face, men would say, is a flash,
          Is laid on bones taken from the ribs of the earth,
          Ready for the hammers of changing, changing years,
          Ready for the sleeping, sleeping years of silence.
          Ready for the dust and fire and wind.
I wanted this face and I saw it today in an Aztec mask.
A cry out of storm and dark, a red yell and a purple prayer,
A beaten shape of ashes
               waiting the sunrise or night,
               something or nothing,
               proud-mouthed,
               proud-eyed gambler.

OF my city the worst that men will ever say is this:
You took little children away from the sun and the dew,
And the glimmers that played in the grass under the great sky,
And the reckless rain; you put them between walls
To work, broken and smothered, for bread and wages,
To eat dust in their throats and die empty-hearted
For a little handful of pay on a few Saturday nights.

THE CHILD Margaret begins to write numbers on a Saturday morning, the first numbers formed under her wishing child fingers.  
All the numbers come well-born, shaped in figures assertive for a frieze in a child’s room.  
Both 1 and 7 are straightforward, military, filled with lunge and attack, erect in shoulder-straps.  
The 6 and 9 salute as dancing sisters, elder and younger, and 2 is a trapeze actor swinging to handclaps.  
All the numbers are well-born, only 3 has a hump on its back and 8 is knock-kneed.  
The child Margaret kisses all once and gives two kisses to 3 and 8.  
(Each number is a bran-new rag doll … O in the wishing fingers … millions of rag dolls, millions and millions of new rag dolls!!)

SHINE on, O moon of summer.
Shine to the leaves of grass, catalpa and oak,
All silver under your rain to-night.

An Italian boy is sending songs to you to-night from an accordion.

A Polish boy is out with his best girl; they marry next
     month; to-night they are throwing you kisses.

An old man next door is dreaming over a sheen that sits in a cherry tree in his back yard.

The clocks say I must go—I stay here sitting on the
     back porch drinking white thoughts you rain down.

          Shine on, O moon,
Shake out more and more silver changes.