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Short poem

Carl Sandburg (1878-1967)


              1      HOG Butcher for the World,
              2      Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
              3      Player with Railroads and the Nation's Freight
              4      Stormy, husky, brawling,
              5      City of the Big Shoulders:

              6They tell me you are wicked and I believe them, for I
     have seen your painted women under the gas lamps
     luring the farm boys.
              7And 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.
              8And 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.
              9And 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:
            10Come and show me another city with lifted head singing
     so proud to be alive and coarse and strong and cun-
            11Flinging magnetic curses amid the toil of piling job on
     job, here is a tall bold slugger set vivid against the
     little soft cities;
            12Fierce as a dog with tongue lapping for action, cunning
     as a savage pitted against the wilderness,
            13      Bareheaded,
            14      Shoveling,
            15      Wrecking,
            16      Planning,
            17      Building, breaking, rebuilding,
            18Under the smoke, dust all over his mouth, laughing with
     white teeth,
            19Under the terrible burden of destiny laughing as a young
     man laughs,
            20Laughing even as an ignorant fighter laughs who has
     never lost a battle,
            21Bragging and laughing that under his wrist is the pulse,
     and under his ribs the heart of the people,
            22         Laughing!
            23Laughing 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.

Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: Carl Sandburg, Chicago Poems (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1916), pp. 3-4. PS 3537 A618C5 1916 ROBA
First publication date: 1916
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: RPO 1998.
Recent editing: 4:2002/3/7

Form: Free Verse

Other poems by Carl Sandburg