Poems by Author

Sandburg, Carl


There are no handles upon a language
Whereby men take hold of it
And mark it with signs for its remembrance.
It is a river, this language,
Once in a thousand years
Breaking a new course
Changing its way to the ocean.
It is mountain effluvia
Moving to valleys
And from nation to nation
Crossing borders and mixing.
Languages die like rivers.
Words wrapped round your tongue today
And broken to shape of thought
Between your teeth and lips speaking
Now and today
Shall be faded hieroglyphics
Ten thousand years from now.
Sing--and singing--remember
Your song dies and changes
And is not here to-morrow
Any more than the wind
Blowing ten thousand years ago.

Sandburg, Carl

I am the People, The Mob

I AM the people--the mob--the crowd--the mass.
Do you know that all the great work of the world is done through me?
I am the workingman, the inventor, the maker of the world's food and clothes.
I am the audience that witnesses history.
The Napoleons come from me and the Lincolns.
They die.
And then I send forth more Napoleons and Lincolns.
I am the seed ground.
I am a prairie that will stand for much plowing.
Terrible storms pass over me.
I forget.
The best of me is sucked out and wasted.
I forget.
Everything but Death comes to me and makes me work and give up what I have.
And I forget.
Sometimes I growl, shake myself and spatter a few red drops for history to remember.
Then--I forget.
When I, the People, learn to remember, when I, the People, use the lessons of yesterday and no longer forget who robbed me last year, who played me for a fool--then there will be no speaker in all the world say the name:
"The People," with any fleck of a sneer in his voice or any far-off smile of derision.
The mob--the crowd--the mass--will arrive then.

Sandburg, Carl

The Right to Grief

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.

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.