Poem for April: Chicago

CHICAGO

Carl Sandburg

HOG Butcher for the World,

Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,

Player with Railroads and the Nation’s Freight Handler;

Stormy, husky, brawling,

City of the Big Shoulders:

They tell me you are wicked and I believe them, for I

have seen your painted women under the gas lamps

luring the farm boys.

And they tell me you are crooked and I answer: Yes, it

is true I have seen the gunman kill and go free to

kill again.

And they tell me you are brutal and my reply is: On the

faces of women and children I have seen the marks

of wanton hunger.

And having answered so I turn once more to those who

sneer at this my city, and I give them back the sneer

and say to them:

Come and show me another city with lifted head singing

so proud to be alive and coarse and strong and cunning.

Flinging magnetic curses amid the toil of piling job on

job, here is a tall bold slugger set vivid against the

little soft cities;

Fierce as a dog with tongue lapping for action, cunning

as a savage pitted against the wilderness,

Bareheaded,

Shoveling,

Wrecking,

Planning,

Building, breaking, rebuilding,

Under the smoke, dust all over his mouth, laughing with

white teeth,

Under the terrible burden of destiny laughing as a young

man laughs,

Laughing even as an ignorant fighter laughs who has

never lost a battle,

Bragging and laughing that under his wrist is the pulse.

and under his ribs the heart of the people,

Laughing!

Laughing the stormy, husky, brawling laughter of

Youth, half-naked, sweating, proud to be Hog

Butcher, Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat, Player with

Railroads and Freight Handler to the Nation.

Having lived on the East Coast, where they think they are the be-all end-all of the country, I love the adolescent spit-in-your-face nature of this poem. There is a lot of swagger in this, which makes it fun to recite.



One thought on “Poem for April: Chicago”

  1. Oooh, that one's a doozy! Lots of fun words and word combinations. I bet it is a real barn burner when it gets going. Impressive, as usual!!!

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