Illinois

On December 11, 2003, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich named Kevin Stein the state’s fourth poet laureate, following Howard Austin, Carl Sandburg, and Gwendolyn Brooks. Stein has published eight poetry collections and chapbooks, three scholarly books, and two poetry anthologies.

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The Little Peach

A little peach in the orchard grew,—
A little peach of emerald hue;
Warmed by the sun and wet by the dew,
          It grew.
One day, passing that orchard through,
That little peach dawned on the view
Of Johnny Jones and his sister Sue—
          Them two.
Up at that peach a club they threw—
Down from the stem on which it grew
Fell that peach of emerald hue.
          Mon Dieu!
John took a bite and Sue a chew,
And then the trouble began to brew,—
Trouble the doctor couldn't subdue.
          Too true!
Under the turf where the daisies grew
They planted John and his sister Sue,
And their little souls to the angels flew,—
          Boo hoo!
What of that peach of the emerald hue,
Warmed by the sun, and wet by the dew?
Ah, well, its mission on earth is through.
          Adieu!

Norse Lullaby

The sky is dark and the hills are white
As the storm-king speeds from the north to-night,
And this is the song the storm-king sings,
As over the world his cloak he flings:
  "Sleep, sleep, little one, sleep;"
He rustles his wings and gruffly sings:
  "Sleep, little one, sleep."
On yonder mountain-side a vine
Clings at the foot of a mother pine;
The tree bends over the trembling thing,
And only the vine can hear her sing:
  "Sleep, sleep, little one, sleep;
What shall you fear when I am here?
  Sleep, little one, sleep."
The king may sing in his bitter flight,
The tree may croon to the vine to-night,
But the little snowflake at my breast
Liketh the song I sing the best,—
  Sleep, sleep, little one, sleep;
Weary thou art, anext my heart
  Sleep, little one, sleep.
 

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.