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.
Carl Sandburg - 1878-1967
Four Preludes on Playthings of the Wind
The past is a bucket of ashes. 1 The woman named Tomorrow sits with a hairpin in her teeth and takes her time and does her hair the way she wants it and fastens at last the last braid and coil and puts the hairpin where it belongs and turns and drawls: Well, what of it? My grandmother, Yesterday, is gone. What of it? Let the dead be dead. 2 The doors were cedar and the panels strips of gold and the girls were golden girls and the panels read and the girls chanted: We are the greatest city, the greatest nation: nothing like us ever was. The doors are twisted on broken hinges. Sheets of rain swish through on the wind where the golden girls ran and the panels read: We are the greatest city, the greatest nation, nothing like us ever was. 3 It has happened before. Strong men put up a city and got a nation together, And paid singers to sing and women to warble: We are the greatest city, the greatest nation, nothing like us ever was. And while the singers sang and the strong men listened and paid the singers well and felt good about it all, there were rats and lizards who listened … and the only listeners left now … are … the rats … and the lizards. And there are black crows crying, "Caw, caw," bringing mud and sticks building a nest over the words carved on the doors where the panels were cedar and the strips on the panels were gold and the golden girls came singing: We are the greatest city, the greatest nation: nothing like us ever was. The only singers now are crows crying, "Caw, caw," And the sheets of rain whine in the wind and doorways. And the only listeners now are … the rats … and the lizards. 4 The feet of the rats scribble on the door sills; the hieroglyphs of the rat footprints chatter the pedigrees of the rats and babble of the blood and gabble of the breed of the grandfathers and the great-grandfathers of the rats. And the wind shifts and the dust on a door sill shifts and even the writing of the rat footprints tells us nothing, nothing at all about the greatest city, the greatest nation where the strong men listened and the women warbled: Nothing like us ever was.