National Poetry Month: April 5th

April 5, 2014

Chicago by 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.

big shoulders

This poem was selected by Barb L. (Readers’ Services) to commemorate the 100th anniversary of its publication.  To learn more, check out this Chicago Tribune article.

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