Shirt

Carl Sandburg - 1878-1967
I remember once I ran after you and tagged the fluttering
      shirt of you in the wind.
Once many days ago I drank a glassful of something and
      the picture of you shivered and slid on top of the stuff.
And again it was nobody else but you I heard in the
      singing voice of a careless humming woman.
One night when I sat with chums telling stories at a
      bonfire flickering red embers, in a language its own
      talking to a spread of white stars:
                          It was you that slunk laughing
                          in the clumsy staggering shadows.
Broken answers of remembrance let me know you are
      alive with a peering phantom face behind a doorway
      somewhere in the city’s push and fury.
Or under a pack of moss and leaves waiting in silence
      under a twist of oaken arms ready as ever to run
      away again when I tag the fluttering shirt of you.

More by Carl Sandburg

Chicago

        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.

Fog

The fog comes
on little cat feet.

It sits looking 
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

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.

Related Poems

The Forms of Love

Parked in the fields 
All night 
So many years ago, 
We saw 
A lake beside us 
When the moon rose. 
I remember 

Leaving that ancient car 
Together. I remember 
Standing in the white grass 
Beside it. We groped 
Our way together 
Downhill in the bright 
Incredible light 

Beginning to wonder 
Whether it could be lake 
Or fog 
We saw, our heads 
Ringing under the stars we walked 
To where it would have wet our feet 
Had it been water