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Carl sandburg

Carl Sandburg


I DON’T blame the kettle drums-they are hungry.
And the snare drums-I know what they want-they are empty too.
And the harring booming bass drums-they are hungriest of all..    .    .
The howling spears of the Northwest die down.
The lullabies of the Southwest get a chance, a mother song.
A cradle moon rides out of a torn hole in the ragbag top of the sky.

THEY are crying salt tears  
Over the beautiful beloved body  
Of Inez Milholland,  
Because they are glad she lived,  
Because she loved open-armed,    
Throwing love for a cheap thing  
Belonging to everybody—  
Cheap as sunlight,  
And morning air.

THE dago shovelman sits by the railroad track
Eating a noon meal of bread and bologna.
     A train whirls by, and men and women at tables
     Alive with red roses and yellow jonquils,
     Eat steaks running with brown gravy,
     Strawberries and cream, eclaires and coffee.
The dago shovelman finishes the dry bread and bologna,
Washes it down with a dipper from the water-boy,
And goes back to the second half of a ten-hour day’s work
Keeping the road-bed so the roses and jonquils
Shake hardly at all in the cut glass vases
Standing slender on the tables in the dining cars.

She sits in the dust at the walls
And makes cigars,
Bending at the bench
With fingers wage-anxious,
Changing her sweat for the day’s pay.

Now the noon hour has come,
And she leans with her bare arms
On the window-sill over the river,
Leans and feels at her throat
Cool-moving things out of the free open ways:

At her throat and eyes and nostrils
The touch and the blowing cool
Of great free ways beyond the walls.

NANCY HANKS dreams by the fire;  
Dreams, and the logs sputter,  
And the yellow tongues climb.  
Red lines lick their way in flickers.  
Oh, sputter, logs.        
      Oh, dream, Nancy.  
Time now for a beautiful child.  
Time now for a tall man to come.

BOY heart of Johnny Jones—aching to-day?  
Aching, and Buffalo Bill in town?  
Buffalo Bill and ponies, cowboys, Indians?  
Some of us know  
All about it, Johnny Jones.      
Buffalo Bill is a slanting look of the eyes,  
  A slanting look under a hat on a horse.  
He sits on a horse and a passing look is fixed  
  On Johnny Jones, you and me, barelegged,  
A slanting, passing, careless look under a hat on a horse.    
Go clickety-clack, O pony hoofs along the street.  
Come on and slant your eyes again, O Buffalo Bill.  
Give us again the ache of our boy hearts.  
Fill us again with the red love of prairies, dark nights, lonely wagons, and the crack-crack of rifles sputtering flashes into an ambush.

BECAUSE I have called to you
as the flame flamingo calls,
or the want of a spotted hawk
is called–
  because in the dusk
the warblers shoot the running
waters of short songs to the
homecoming warblers–
the cry here is wing to wing
and song to song–

  I am waiting,
waiting with the flame flamingo,
the spotted hawk, the running water
  waiting for you.

I WROTE a poem on the mist
And a woman asked me what I meant by it.
I had thought till then only of the beauty of the mist,
          how pearl and gray of it mix and reel,
And change the drab shanties with lighted lamps at evening
          into points of mystery quivering with color.

     I answered:
The whole world was mist once long ago and some day
          it will all go back to mist,
Our skulls and lungs are more water than bone and
And all poets love dust and mist because all the last
Go running back to dust and mist.

(For S. A.)TO write one book in five years
or five books in one year,
to be the painter and the thing painted,
... where are we, bo?

Wait-get his number.
The barber shop handling is here
and the tweeds, the cheviot, the Scotch Mist,
and the flame orange scarf.

Yet there is more-he sleeps under bridges
with lonely crazy men; he sits in country
jails with bootleggers; he adopts the children
of broken-down burlesque actresses; he has
cried a heart of tears for Windy MacPherson’s
father; he pencils wrists of lonely women.

Can a man sit at a desk in a skyscraper in Chicago
and be a harnessmaker in a corn town in Iowa
and feel the tall grass coming up in June
and the ache of the cottonwood trees
singing with the prairie wind?


The lean hands of wagon men
put out pointing fingers here,
picked this crossway, put it on a map,
set up their sawbucks, fixed their shotguns,
found a hitching place for the pony express,
made a hitching place for the iron horse,
the one-eyed horse with the fire-spit head,
found a homelike spot and said, “Make a home,”
saw this corner with a mesh of rails, shuttling
       people, shunting cars, shaping the junk of
       the earth to a new city.

The hands of men took hold and tugged
And the breaths of men went into the junk
And the junk stood up into skyscrapers and asked:
Who am I? Am I a city? And if I am what is my name?
And once while the time whistles blew and blew again
The men answered: Long ago we gave you a name,
Long ago we laughed and said: You? Your name is Chicago.

Early the red men gave a name to the river,
       the place of the skunk,
       the river of the wild onion smell,

Out of the payday songs of steam shovels,
Out of the wages of structural iron rivets,
The living lighted skyscrapers tell it now as a name,
Tell it across miles of sea blue water, gray blue land:
I am Chicago, I am a name given out by the breaths of working men,
       laughing men, a child, a belonging.

So between the Great Lakes,
The Grand De Tour, and the Grand Prairie,
The living lighted skyscrapers stand,
Spotting the blue dusk with checkers of yellow,
       streamers of smoke and silver,
       parallelograms of night-gray watchmen,
Singing a soft moaning song: I am a child, a belonging.


The wheelbarrows grin, the shovels and the mortar
       hoist an exploit.
The stone shanks of the Monadnock, the Transportation,
       the People’s Gas Building, stand up and scrape
       at the sky.
The wheelbarrows sing, the bevels and the blueprints
The library building named after Crerar, naked
       as a stock farm silo, light as a single eagle
       feather, stripped like an airplane propeller,
       takes a path up.
Two cool new rivets says, “Maybe it is morning.”
       “God knows.”

Put the city up; tear the city down;
       put it up again; let us find a city.
Let us remember the little violet-eyed
       man who gave all, praying, “Dig and
       dream, dream and hammer, till your
       city comes.”

Every day the people sleep and the city dies;
       every day the people shake loose, awake and
       build the city again.

The city is a tool chest opened every day,
       a time clock punched every morning,
       a shop door, bunkers and overalls
       counting every day.

The city is a balloon and a bubble plaything
       shot to the sky every evening, whistled in
       a ragtime jig down the sunset.

The city is made, forgotten, and made again,
       trucks hauling it away haul it back
       steered by drivers whistling ragtime
       against the sunsets.

Every day the people get up and carry the city,
       carry the bunkers and balloons of the city,
       lift it and put it down.

               “I will die as many times
               as you make me over again,
               says the city to the people,
I am the woman, the home, the family,
I get breakfast and pay the rent;
I telephone the doctor, the milkman, the undertaker;
       I fix the streets
       for your first and your last ride—
Come clean with me, come clean or dirty,
I am stone and steel of your sleeping numbers;
       I remember all you forget.
       I will die as many times
       as you make me over again.”

Under the foundations,
Over the roofs,
The bevels and the blueprints talk it over.
The wind of the lake shore waits and wanders.
The heave of the shore wind hunches the sand piles.
The winkers of the morning stars count out cities
And forget the numbers.

They have painted and sung
the women washing their hair,
and the plaits and strands in the sun,
and the golden combs
and the combs of elephant tusks
and the combs of buffalo horn and hoof.

The sun has been good to women,
drying their heads of hair
as they stooped and shook their shoulders
and framed their faces with copper
and framed their eyes with dusk or chestnut.

The rain has been good to women.
If the rain should forget,
if the rain left off for a year—
the heads of women would wither,
the copper, the dusk and chestnuts, go.

They have painted and sung
the women washing their hair—
reckon the sun and rain in, too.

It’s going to come out all right—do you know?
The sun, the birds, the grass—they know.
They get along—and we’ll get along.

Some days will be rainy and you will sit waiting
And the letter you wait for won’t come,
And I will sit watching the sky tear off gray and gray
And the letter I wait for won’t come.

There will be ac-ci-dents.
I know ac-ci-dents are coming.
Smash-ups, signals wrong, washouts, trestles rotten,
Red and yellow ac-ci-dents.
But somehow and somewhere the end of the run
The train gets put together again
And the caboose and the green tail lights
Fade down the right of way like a new white hope.

I never heard a mockingbird in Kentucky
Spilling its heart in the morning.

I never saw the snow on Chimborazo.
It’s a high white Mexican hat, I hear.

I never had supper with Abe Lincoln.
Nor a dish of soup with Jim Hill.

But I’ve been around.
I know some of the boys here who can go a little.
I know girls good for a burst of speed any time.

I heard Williams and Walker
Before Walker died in the bughouse.

I knew a mandolin player
Working in a barber shop in an Indiana town,
And he thought he had a million dollars.

I knew a hotel girl in Des Moines.
She had eyes; I saw her and said to myself
The sun rises and the sun sets in her eyes.
I was her steady and her heart went pit-a-pat.
We took away the money for a prize waltz at a
          Brotherhood dance.
She had eyes; she was safe as the bridge over the
          Mississippi at Burlington; I married her.

Last summer we took the cushions going west.
Pike’s Peak is a big old stone, believe me.
It’s fastened down; something you can count on.

It’s going to come out all right—do you know?
The sun, the birds, the grass—they know.
They get along—and we’ll get along.