CHICAGO POEMS By Carl Sandburg

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Published Date:05-07-2017
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CHICAGO POEMS By Carl Sandburg Originally published by Henry Holt and Company, New York This digital reprint published by E P S Electronic Scholarly Publishing CONTENTS 3 LOST Desolate and lone All night long on the lake Where fog trails and mist creeps, The whistle of a boat Calls and cries unendingly, Like some lost child In tears and trouble Hunting the harbor’s breast And the harbor’s eyes. THE HARBOR Passing through huddled and ugly walls By doorways where women Looked from their hunger-deep eyes, Haunted with shadows of hunger-hands, Out from the huddled and ugly walls, I came sudden, at the city’s edge, On a blue burst of lake, Long lake waves breaking under the sun On a spray-flung curve of shore; And a fluttering storm of gulls, Masses of great gray wings And flying white bellies Veering and wheeling free in the open. THEY WILL SAY 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. American Literature 4 CARL SANDBURG MILL-DOORS YOU never come back. I say good-by when I see you going in the doors, The hopeless open doors that call and wait And take you then for—how many cents a day? How many cents for the sleepy eyes and fingers? I say good-by because I know they tap your wrists, In the dark, in the silence, day by day, And all the blood of you drop by drop, And you are old before you are young. You never come back. HALSTED STREET CAR COME you, cartoonists, Hang on a strap with me here At seven o’clock in the morning On a Halsted street car. Take your pencils And draw these faces. Try with your pencils for these crooked faces, That pig-sticker in one corner—his mouth— That overall factory girl—her loose cheeks. Find for your pencils A way to mark your memory Of tired empty faces. After their night’s sleep, In the moist dawn And cool daybreak, Faces Tired of wishes, Empty of dreams. ESP FOUNDATIONS SERIES CONTENTS 5 CLARK STREET BRIDGE DUST of the feet And dust of the wheels, Wagons and people going, All day feet and wheels. Now. . . . . . Only stars and mist A lonely policeman, Two cabaret dancers, Stars and mist again, No more feet or wheels, No more dust and wagons. Voices of dollars And drops of blood . . . . . Voices of broken hearts, . . . Voices singing, singing, . . . Silver voices, singing, Softer than the stars, Softer than the mist. PASSERS-BY PASSERS-BY, Out of your many faces Flash memories to me Now at the day end Away from the sidewalks Where your shoe soles traveled And your voices rose and blent To form the city’s afternoon roar Hindering an old silence. Passers-by, I remember lean ones among you, American Literature 6 CARL SANDBURG Throats in the clutch of a hope, Lips written over with strivings, Mouths that kiss only for love. Records of great wishes slept with, Held long And prayed and toiled for: Yes, Written on Your mouths And your throats I read them When you passed by. THE WALKING MAN OF RODIN LEGS hold a torso away from the earth. And a regular high poem of legs is here. Powers of bone and cord raise a belly and lungs Out of ooze and over the loam where eyes look and ears hear And arms have a chance to hammer and shoot and run motors. You make us Proud of our legs, old man. And you left off the head here, The skull found always crumbling neighbor of the ankles. SUBWAY DOWN between the walls of shadow Where the iron laws insist, The hunger voices mock. The worn wayfaring men With the hunched and humble shoulders, Throw their laughter into toil. ESP FOUNDATIONS SERIES CONTENTS 7 THE SHOVEL MAN ON the street Slung on his shoulder is a handle half way across, Tied in a big knot on the scoop of cast iron Are the overalls faded from sun and rain in the ditches; Spatter of dry clay sticking yellow on his left sleeve And a flimsy shirt open at the throat, I know him for a shovel man, A dago working for a dollar six bits a day And a dark-eyed woman in the old country dreams of him for one of the world’s ready men with a pair of fresh lips and a kiss better than all the wild grapes that ever grew in Tuscany. A TEAMSTER’S FAREWELL Sobs En Route to a Penitentiary GOOD-BY now to the streets and the clash of wheels and locking hubs, The sun coming on the brass buckles and harness knobs. The muscles of the horses sliding under their heavy haunches, Good-by now to the traffic policeman and his whistle, The smash of the iron hoof on the stones, All the crazy wonderful slamming roar of the street— O God, there’s noises I’m going to be hungry for. FISH CRIER I KNOW a Jew fish crier down on Maxwell Street with a voice like a north wind blowing over corn stubble in January. He dangles herring before prospective customers evincing a joy identical with that of Pavlowa dancing. His face is that of a man terribly glad to be selling fish, terribly glad that God made fish, and customers to whom he may call his wares, from a pushcart. American Literature 8 CARL SANDBURG PICNIC BOAT SUNDAY night and the park policemen tell each other it is dark as a stack of black cats on Lake Michigan. A big picnic boat comes home to Chicago from the peach farms of Saugatuck. Hundreds of electric bulbs break the night’s darkness, a flock of red and yellow birds with wings at a standstill. Running along the deck railings are festoons and leaping in curves are loops of light from prow and stern to the tall smokestacks. Over the hoarse crunch of waves at my pier comes a hoarse answer in the rhythmic oompa of the brasses playing a Polish folk-song for the home-comers. HAPPINESS I ASKED the professors who teach the meaning of life to tell me what is happiness. And I went to famous executives who boss the work of thousands of men. They all shook their heads and gave me a smile as though I was trying to fool with them And then one Sunday afternoon I wandered out along the Desplaines river And I saw a crowd of Hungarians under the trees with their women and children and a keg of beer and an accordion. MUCKERS TWENTY men stand watching the muckers. Stabbing the sides of the ditch Where clay gleams yellow, Driving the blades of their shovels Deeper and deeper for the new gas mains Wiping sweat off their faces With red bandanas The muckers work on . . . pausing . . . to pull Their boots out of suckholes where they slosh. Of the twenty looking on Ten murmer, “O, its a hell of a job,” Ten others, “Jesus, I wish I had the job.” ESP FOUNDATIONS SERIES CONTENTS 9 BLACKLISTED WHY shall I keep the old name? What is a name anywhere anyway? A name is a cheap thing all fathers and mothers leave each child: A job is a job and I want to live, so Why does God Almighty or anybody else care whether I take a new name to go by? GRACELAND TOMB of a millionaire, A multi-millionaire, ladies and gentlemen, Place of the dead where they spend every year The usury of twenty-five thousand dollars For upkeep and flowers To keep fresh the memory of the dead. The merchant prince gone to dust Commanded in his written will Over the signed name of his last testament Twenty-five thousand dollars be set aside For roses, lilacs, hydrangeas, tulips, For perfume and color, sweetness of remembrance Around his last long home. (A hundred cash girls want nickels to go to the movies to-night. In the back stalls of a hundred saloons, women are at tables Drinking with men or waiting for men jingling loose silver dollars in their pockets. In a hundred furnished rooms is a girl who sells silk or dress goods or leather stuff for six dollars a week wages And when she pulls on her stockings in the morning she is reckless about God and the newspapers and the police, the talk of her home town or the name people call her.) CHILD OF THE ROMANS 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 American Literature 10 CARL SANDBURG 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. THE RIGHT TO GRIEF To Certain Poets About to Die TAKE your fill of intimate remorse, perfumed sorrow, Over the dead child of a millionaire, And the pity of Death refusing any check on the bank Which the millionaire might order his secretary to scratch off And get cashed. Very well, You for your grief and I for mine. Let me have a sorrow my own if I want to. I shall cry over the dead child of a stockyards hunky. His job is sweeping blood off the floor. He gets a dollar seventy cents a day when he works And it’s many tubs of blood he shoves out with a broom day by day. Now his three year old daughter Is in a white coffin that cost him a week’s wages. Every Saturday night he will pay the undertaker fifty cents till the debt is wiped out. The hunky and his wife and the kids Cry over the pinched face almost at peace in the white box. They remember it was scrawny and ran up high doctor bills. They are glad it is gone for the rest of the family now will have more to eat and wear. ESP FOUNDATIONS SERIES CONTENTS 11 Yet before the majesty of Death they cry around the coffin And wipe their eyes with red bandanas and sob when the priest says, “God have mercy on us all.” I have a right to feel my throat choke about this. You take your grief and I mine—see? To-morrow there is no funeral and the hunky goes back to his job sweeping blood off the floor at a dollar seventy cents a day. All he does all day long is keep on shoving hog blood ahead of him with a broom MAG I WISH to God I never saw you, Mag. I wish you never quit your job and came along with me. I wish we never bought a license and a white dress For you to get married in the day we ran off to a minister And told him we would love each other and take care of each other Always and always long as the sun and the rain lasts anywhere. Yes, I’m wishing now you lived somewhere away from here And I was a bum on the bumpers a thousand miles away dead broke. I wish the kids had never come And rent and coal and clothes to pay for And a grocery man calling for cash, Every day cash for beans and prunes. I wish to God I never saw you, Mag. I wish to God the kids had never come. ONION DAYS MRS. GABRIELLE GIOVANNITTI comes along Peoria Street every morning at nine o’clock With kindling wood piled on top of her head, her eyes looking straight ahead to find the way for her old feet. Her daughter-in-law, Mrs. Pietro Giovannitti, whose husband was killed in a tunnel explosion through the negligence of a fellow-servant, Works ten hours a day, sometimes twelve, picking onions for Jasper on the Bowmanville road. She takes a street car at half-past five in the morning, Mrs. Pietro Giovannitti does, American Literature 12 CARL SANDBURG And gets back from Jasper’s with cash for her day’s work, between nine and ten o’clock at night. Last week she got eight cents a box, Mrs. Pietro Giovannitti, picking onions for Jasper, But this week Jasper dropped the pay to six cents a box because so many women and girls were answering the ads in the Daily News. Jasper belongs to an Episcopal church in Ravenswood and on certain Sundays He enjoys chanting the Nicene creed with his daughters on each side of him joining their voices with his. If the preacher repeats old sermons of a Sunday, Jasper’s mind wanders to his 700-acre farm and how he can make it produce more efficiently And sometimes he speculates on whether he could word an ad in the Daily News so it would bring more women and girls out to his farm and reduce operating costs. Mrs. Pietro Giovannitti is far from desperate about life; her joy is in a child she knows will arrive to her in three months. And now while these are the pictures for today there are other pictures of the Giovannitti people I could give you for to-morrow, And how some of them go to the county agent on winter mornings with their baskets for beans and cornmeal and molasses. I listen to fellows saying here’s good stuff for a novel or it might be worked up into a good play. I say there’s no dramatist living can put old Mrs. Gabrielle Giovannitti into a play with that kindling wood piled on top of her head coming along Peoria Street nine o’clock in the morning. POPULATION DRIFTS NEW-MOWN hay smell and wind of the plain made her a woman whose ribs had the power of the hills in them and her hands were tough for work and there was passion for life in her womb. She and her man crossed the ocean and the years that marked their faces saw them haggling with landlords and grocers while six children played on the stones and prowled in the garbage cans. One child coughed its lungs away, two more have adenoids and can neither talk nor run like their mother, one is in jail, two have jobs in a box factory And as they fold the pasteboard, they wonder what the wishing is and the wistful glory in them that flutters faintly when the glimmer of spring comes on the air or the green of summer turns brown: ESP FOUNDATIONS SERIES CONTENTS 13 They do not know it is the new-mown hay smell calling and the wind of the plain praying for them to come back and take hold of life again with tough hands and with passion. CRIPPLE ONCE when I saw a cripple Gasping slowly his last days with the white plague, Looking from hollow eyes, calling for air, Desperately gesturing with wasted hands In the dark and dust of a house down in a slum, I said to myself I would rather have been a tall sunflower Living in a country garden Lifting a golden-brown face to the summer, Rain-washed and dew-misted, Mixed with the poppies and ranking hollyhocks, And wonderingly watching night after night The clear silent processionals of stars. A FENCE NOW the stone house on the lake front is finished and the workmen are beginning the fence. The palings are made of iron bars with steel points that can stab the life out of any man who falls on them. As a fence, it is a masterpiece, and will shut off the rabble and all vagabonds and hungry men and all wandering children looking for a place to play. Passing through the bars and over the steel points will go nothing except Death and the Rain and To-morrow. ANNA IMROTH CROSS the hands over the breast here—so. Straighten the legs a little more—so. And call for the wagon to come and take her home. Her mother will cry some and so will her sisters and brothers. American Literature 14 CARL SANDBURG But all of the others got down and they are safe and this is the only one of the factory girls who wasn’t lucky in making the jump when the fire broke. It is the hand of God and the lack of fire escapes. WORKING GIRLS THE working girls in the morning are going to work— long lines of them afoot amid the downtown stores and factories, thousands with little brick-shaped lunches wrapped in newspapers under their arms. Each morning as I move through this river of young-woman life I feel a wonder about where it is all going, so many with a peach bloom of young years on them and laughter of red lips and memories in their eyes of dances the night before and plays and walks. Green and gray streams run side by side in a river and so here are always the others, those who have been over the way, the women who know each one the end of life’s gamble for her, the meaning and the clew, the how and the why of the dances and the arms that passed around their waists and the fingers that played in their hair. Faces go by written over: “I know it all, I know where he bloom and the laughter go and I have memories,” and the feet of these move slower and they have wisdom where the others have beauty. So the green and the gray move in the early morning on the downtown streets. MAMIE MAMIE beat her head against the bars of a little Indiana town and dreamed of romance and big things off somewhere the way the railroad trains all ran. She could see the smoke of the engines get lost down where the streaks of steel flashed in the sun and when the newspapers came in on the morning mail she knew there was a big Chicago far off, where all the trains ran. She got tired of the barber shop boys and the post office chatter and the church gossip and the old pieces the band played on the Fourth of July and Decoration Day And sobbed at her fate and beat her head against the bars and was going to kill herself When the thought came to her that if she was going to die she might as well die struggling for a clutch of romance among the streets of Chicago. ESP FOUNDATIONS SERIES CONTENTS 15 She has a job now at six dollars a week in the basement of the Boston Store And even now she beats her head against the bars in the same old way and wonders if there is a bigger place the railroads run to from Chicago where maybe there is romance and big things and real dreams that never go smash. PERSONALITY Musings of a Police Reporter in the Identification Bureau 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 nd 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. CUMULATIVES STORMS have beaten on this point of land And ships gone to wreck here and the passers-by remember it with talk on the deck at night as they near it. Fists have beaten on the face of this old prize-fighter And his battles have held the sporting pages and on the street they indicate him with their right fore-finger as one who once wore a championship belt. A hundred stories have been published and a thousand rumored American Literature 16 CARL SANDBURG About why this tall dark man has divorced two beautiful young women And married a third who resembles the first two and they shake their heads and say, “There he goes,” when he passes by in sunny weather or in rain along the city streets. TO CERTAIN JOURNEYMEN UNDERTAKERS, hearse drivers, grave diggers, I speak to you as one not afraid of your business. You handle dust going to a long country, You know the secret behind your job is the same whether you lower the coffin with modern, automatic machinery,well-oiled and noiseless, or whether the body is laid in by naked hands and then covered by the shovels. Your day’s work is done with laughter many days of the year, And you earn a living by those who say good-by today in thin whispers. CHAMFORT THERE’S Chamfort. He’s a sample. Locked himself in his library with a gun, Shot off his nose and shot out his right eye. And this Chamfort knew how to write And thousands read his books on how to live, But he himself didn’t know How to die by force of his own hand—see? They found him a red pool on the carpet Cool as an April forenoon, Talking and talking gay maxims and grim epigrams. Well, he wore bandages over his nose and right eye, Drank coffee and chatted many years With men and women who loved him Because he laughed and daily dared Death: “Come and take me.” ESP FOUNDATIONS SERIES CONTENTS 17 LIMITED I AM riding on a limited express, one of the crack trains of the nation. Hurtling across the prairie into blue haze and dark air go fifteen all-steel coaches holding a thousand people. (All the coaches shall be scrap and rust and all the men and women laughing in the diners and sleepers shall pass to ashes.) I ask a man in the smoker where he is going and he answers: “Omaha.” THE HAS-BEEN A STONE face higher than six horses stood five thousand years gazing at the world seeming to clutch a secret. A boy passes and throws a niggerhead that chips off the end of the nose from the stone face; he lets fly a mud ball that spatters the right eye and cheek of the old looker-on. The boy laughs and goes whistling “ee-ee-ee ee-ee-ee.” The stone face stands silent, seeming to clutch a secret. IN A BACK ALLEY REMEMBRANCE for a great man is this. The newsies are pitching pennies. And on the copper disk is the man’s face. Dead lover of boys, what do you ask for now? A COIN YOUR western heads here cast on money, You are the two that fade away together, Partners in the mist. Lunging buffalo shoulder, Lean Indian face, We who come after where you are gone Salute your forms on the new nickel. You are To us: The past. American Literature 18 CARL SANDBURG Runners On the prairie: Good-by. DYNAMITER I SAT with a dynamiter at supper in a German salooneating steak and onions. And he laughed and told stories of his wife and children and the cause of labor and the working class. It was laughter of an unshakable man knowing life to be a rich and red- blooded thing. Yes, his laugh rang like the call of gray birds filled with a glory of joy ramming their winged flight through a rain storm. His name was in many newspapers as an enemy of the nation and few keepers of churches or schools would open their doors to him. Over the steak and onions not a word was said of his deep days and nights as a dynamiter. Only I always remember him as a lover of life, a lover of children, a lover of all free, reckless laughter everywhere—lover of red hearts and red blood the world over. ICE HANDLER I KNOW an ice handler who wears a flannel shirt with pearl buttons the size of a dollar, And he lugs a hundred-pound hunk into a saloon ice-box, helps himself to cold ham and rye bread, Tells the bartender it’s hotter than yesterday and will be hotter yet to- morrow, by Jesus, And is on his way with his head in the air and a hard pair of fists. He spends a dollar or so every Saturday night on a two hundred pound woman who washes dishes in the Hotel Morrison. He remembers when the union was organized he broke the noses of two scabs and loosened the nuts so the wheels came off six different wagons one morning, and he came around and watched the ice melt in the street. All he was sorry for was one of the scabs bit him on the knuckles of the right hand so they bled when he came around to the saloon to tell the boys about it. ESP FOUNDATIONS SERIES CONTENTS 19 JACK JACK was a swarthy, swaggering son-of-a-gun. He worked thirty years on the railroad, ten hours a day, and his hands were tougher than sole leather. He married a tough woman and they had eight children and the woman died and the children grew up and went away and wrote the old man every two years. He died in the poorhouse sitting on a bench in the sun telling reminiscences to other old men whose women were dead and children scattered. There was joy on his face when he died as there was joy on his face when he lived—he was a swarthy, swaggering son-of-a-gun. FELLOW CITIZENS I DRANK musty ale at the Illinois Athletic Club with the millionaire manufacturer of Green River butter one night And his face had the shining light of an old-time Quaker, he spoke of a beautiful daughter, and I knew he had a peace and a happiness up his sleeve somewhere. Then I heard Jim Kirch make a speech to the Advertising Association on the trade resources of South America. And the way he lighted a three-for-a-nickel stogie and cocked it at an angle regardless of the manners of our best people, I knew he had a clutch on a real happiness even though some of the reporters on his newspaper say he is the living double of Jack London’s Sea Wolf. In the mayor’s office the mayor himself told me he was happy though it is a hard job to satisfy all the office-seekers and eat all the dinners he is asked to eat. Down in Gilpin Place, near Hull House, was a man with his jaw wrapped for a bad toothache, And he had it all over the butter millionaire, Jim Kirch and the mayor when it came to happiness. He is a maker of accordions and guitars and not only makes them from start to finish, but plays them after he makes them. And he had a guitar of mahogany with a walnut bottom he offered for seven dollars and a half if I wanted it, And another just like it, only smaller, for six dollars, though he never mentioned the price till I asked him, American Literature 20 CARL SANDBURG And he stated the price in a sorry way, as though the music and the make of an instrument count for a million times more than the price in money. I thought he had a real soul and knew a lot about God. There was light in his eyes of one who has conquered sorrow in so far as sorrow is conquerable or worth conquering. Anyway he is the only Chicago citizen I was jealous of that day. He played a dance they play in some parts of Italy when the harvest of grapes is over and the wine presses are ready for work. NIGGER I AM the nigger. Singer of songs, Dancer . . . Softer than fluff of cotton . . . Harder than dark earth Roads beaten in the sun By the bare feet of slaves . . . Foam of teeth . . . breaking crash of laughter . . . Red love of the blood of woman, White love of the tumbling pickaninnies . . . Lazy love of the banjo thrum . . . Sweated and driven for the harvest-wage, Loud laugher with hands like hams, Fists toughened on the handles, Smiling the slumber dreams of old jungles, Crazy as the sun and dew and dripping, heaving life of the jungle, Brooding and muttering with memories of shackles: I am the nigger. Look at me. I am the nigger. TWO NEIGHBORS FACES of two eternities keep looking at me. One is Omar Khayam and the red stuff wherein men forget yesterday and to-morrow ESP FOUNDATIONS SERIES CONTENTS 21 and remember only the voices and songs, the stories, newspapers and fights of today. One is Louis Cornaro and a slim trick of slow, short meals across slow, short years, letting Death open the door only in slow, short inches. I have a neighbor who swears by Omar. I have a neighbor who swears by Cornaro. Both are happy. Faces of two eternities keep looking at me. Let them look. STYLE STYLE—go ahead talking about style. You can tell where a man gets his style just as you can tell where Pavlowa got her legs or Ty Cobb his batting eye. Go on talking. Only don’t take my style away. It’s my face. Maybe no good but anyway, my face. I talk with it, I sing with it, I see, taste and feel with it, I know why I want to keep it. Kill my style and you break Pavlowa’s legs, and you blind Ty Cobb’s batting eye. TO BEACHEY, 1912 RIDING against the east, A veering, steady shadow Purrs the motor-call Of the man-bird Ready with the death-laughter In his throat And in his heart always American Literature

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