Interior


In the cool of the night time
The clocks pick off the points
And the mainsprings loosen.
They will need winding.
One of these days
they will need winding.


Rabelais in red boards,
Walt Whitman in green,
Hugo in ten-cent paper covers,
Here they stand on shelves
In the cool of the night time
And there is nothing . . . .
To be said against them . . . .
Or for them . . . .
In the cool of the night time
And the docks.


A man in pigeon-gray pyjamas.
The open window begins at his feet
And goes taller than his head.
Eight feet high is the pattern.


Moon and mist make an oblong layout.
Silver at the man's bare feet.
He swings one foot in a moon silver.
And it costs nothing.


(One more day of bread and work.
One more day . . . .so much rags .


The man barefoot in moon silver
Mutters "You" and "You"
To things hidden
In the cool of the night time,
In Rabelais, Whitman, Hugo,
In an oblong of moon mist.


Out from the window . . . . prairielands.
Moon mist whitens a golf ground.
Whiter yet is a limestone quarry.
The crickets keep on chirring.


Switch engines of the Great Western
Sidetrack box cars, make up trains
For Weehawken, Oskaloosa, Saskatchewan;
The cattle, the coal, the corn, must go
In the night . . . . on the prairielands.


Chuff-chuff go the pulses.
They beat in the cool of the night time.
Chuff-chuff and chuff-chuff . . . .



These heartbeats travel the night a mile
And touch the moon silver at the window
And the hones of the man.
It costs nothing.


Rabelais in red boards,
Whitman in green,
Hugo in ten-cent paper covers,
Here they stand on shelves
In the cool of the night time
And the clocks.
11 Carl Sandburg

Skyscraper


By day the skyscraper looms in the smoke and sun and
has a soul.


Prairie and valley, streets of the city, pour people into
it and they mingle among its twenty floors and are
poured out again back to the streets, prairies and
valleys.


It is the men and women, boys and girls so poured in and
out all day that give the building a soul of dreams
and thoughts and memories.


(Dumped in the sea or fixed in a desert, who would care
for the building or speak its name or ask a policeman
the way to it?)


Elevators slide on their cables and tubes catch letters and
parcels and iron pipes carry gas and water in and
sewage out.


Wires climb with secrets, carry light and carry words,
and tell terrors and profits and loves--curses of men
grappling plans of business and questions of women
in plots of love.


Hour by hour the caissons reach down to the rock of the
earth and hold the building to a turning planet.


Hour by hour the girders play as ribs and reach out and
hold together the stone walls and floors.


Hour by hour the hand of the mason and the stuff of the
mortar clinch the pieces and parts to the shape an
architect voted.


Hour by hour the sun and the rain, the air and the rust,
and the press of time running into centuries, play
on the building inside and out and use it.


Men who sunk the pilings and mixed the mortar are laid
in graves where the wind whistles a wild song
without words


And so are men who strung the wires and fixed the pipes
and tubes and those who saw it rise floor by floor.


Souls of them all are here, even the hod carrier begging
at back doors hundreds of miles away and the bricklayer
who went to state's prison for shooting another
man while drunk.


(One man fell from a girder and broke his neck at the
end of a straight plunge--he is here--his soul has
gone into the stones of the building.)


On the office doors from tier to tier--hundreds of names
and each name standing for a face written across
with a dead child, a passionate lover, a driving
ambition for a million dollar business or a lobster's
ease of life.



Behind the signs on the doors they work and the walls
tell nothing from room to room.


Ten-dollar-a-week stenographers take letters from
corporation officers, lawyers, efficiency engineers,
and tons of letters go bundled from the building to all
ends of the earth.


Smiles and tears of each office girl go into the soul of
the building just the same as the master-men who
rule the building.


Hands of clocks turn to noon hours and each floor
empties its men and women who go away and eat
and come back to work.


Toward the end of the afternoon all work slackens and
all jobs go slower as the people feel day closing on
them.


One by one the floors are emptied. . . The uniformed
elevator men are gone. Pails clang. . . Scrubbers
work, talking in foreign tongues. Broom and water
and mop clean from the floors human dust and spit,
and machine grime of the day.


Spelled in electric fire on the roof are words telling
miles of houses and people where to buy a thing for
money. The sign speaks till midnight.


Darkness on the hallways. Voices echo. Silence
holds. . . Watchmen walk slow from floor to floor
and try the doors. Revolvers bulge from their hip
pockets. . . Steel safes stand in corners. Money
is stacked in them.


A young watchman leans at a window and sees the lights
of barges butting their way across a harbor, nets of
red and white lanterns in a railroad yard, and a span
of glooms splashed with lines of white and blurs of
crosses and clusters over the sleeping city.


By night the skyscraper looms in the smoke and the stars
and has a soul.
47 Carl Sandburg

Work Gangs

Box cars run by a mile long.
And I wonder what they say to each other
When they stop a mile long on a sidetrack.
Maybe their chatter goes:
I came from Fargo with a load of wheat up to the danger line.
I came from Omaha with a load of shorthorns and they splintered my boards.
I came from Detroit heavy with a load of fivers.
I carried apples from the Hood river last year and this year bunches of bananas from
Florida; they look for me with watermelons from Mississippi next year.


Hammers and shovels of work gangs sleep in shop corners
when the dark stars come on the sky and the night watchmen walk and look.


Then the hammer heads talk to the handles,
then the scoops of the shovels talk,
how the day’s work nicked and trimmed them,
how they swung and lifted all day,
how the hands of the work gangs smelled of hope.
In the night of the dark stars
when the curve of the sky is a work gang handle,
in the night on the mile long sidetracks,
in the night where the hammers and shovels sleep in corners,
the night watchmen stuff their pipes with dreams—
and sometimes they doze and don’t care for nothin’,
and sometimes they search their heads for meanings, stories, stars.
The stuff of it runs like this:
A long way we come; a long way to go; long rests and long deep sniffs for our lungs on
the way.
Sleep is a belonging of all; even if all songs are old songs and the singing heart is
snuffed out like a switchman’s lantern with the oil gone, even if we forget our names
and houses in the finish, the secret of sleep is left us, sleep belongs to all, sleep is the
first and last and best of all.


People singing; people with song mouths connecting with song hearts; people who
must sing or die; people whose song hearts break if there is no song mouth; these are
my people.
73 Carl Sandburg

A Father To His Son

A father sees his son nearing manhood.
What shall he tell that son?
'Life is hard; be steel; be a rock.'
And this might stand him for the storms
and serve him for humdrum monotony
and guide him among sudden betrayals
and tighten him for slack moments.
'Life is a soft loam; be gentle; go easy.'
And this too might serve him.
Brutes have been gentled where lashes failed.
The growth of a frail flower in a path up
has sometimes shattered and split a rock.
A tough will counts. So does desire.
So does a rich soft wanting.
Without rich wanting nothing arrives.
Tell him too much money has killed men
and left them dead years before burial:
the quest of lucre beyond a few easy needs
has twisted good enough men
sometimes into dry thwarted worms.
Tell him time as a stuff can be wasted.
Tell him to be a fool every so often
and to have no shame over having been a fool
yet learning something out of every folly
hoping to repeat none of the cheap follies
thus arriving at intimate understanding
of a world numbering many fools.
Tell him to be alone often and get at himself
and above all tell himself no lies about himself
whatever the white lies and protective fronts
he may use against other people.
Tell him solitude is creative if he is strong
and the final decisions are made in silent rooms.
Tell him to be different from other people
if it comes natural and easy being different.
Let him have lazy days seeking his deeper motives.
Let him seek deep for where he is born natural.
Then he may understand Shakespeare
and the Wright brothers, Pasteur, Pavlov,
Michael Faraday and free imaginations
Bringing changes into a world resenting change.
He will be lonely enough
to have time for the work
he knows as his own.
76 Carl Sandburg

Always The Mob

Jesus emptied the devils of one man into forty hogs and the hogs took the edge of a
high rock and dropped off and down into the sea: a mob.


The sheep on the hills of Australia, blundering fourfooted in the sunset mist to the
dark, they go one way, they hunt one sleep, they find one pocket of grass for all.


Karnak? Pyramids? Sphinx paws tall as a coolie? Tombs kept for kings and sacred
cows? A mob.


Young roast pigs and naked dancing girls of Belshazzar, the room where a thousand sat
guzzling when a hand wrote: Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin? A mob.


The honeycomb of green that won the sun as the Hanging Gardens of Nineveh, flew to
its shape at the hands of a mob that followed the fingers of Nebuchadnezzar: a mob of
one hand and one plan.


Stones of a circle of hills at Athens, staircases of a mountain in Peru, scattered clans of
marble dragons in China: each a mob on the rim of a sunrise: hammers and wagons
have them now.


Locks and gates of Panama? The Union Pacific crossing deserts and tunneling
mountains? The Woolworth on land and the Titanic at sea? Lighthouses blinking a coast
line from Labrador to Key West? Pig iron bars piled on a barge whistling in a fog off
Sheboygan? A mob: hammers and wagons have them to-morrow.


The mob? A typhoon tearing loose an island from thousand-year moorings and
bastions, shooting a volcanic ash with a fire tongue that licks up cities and peoples.
Layers of worms eating rocks and forming loam and valley floors for potatoes, wheat,
watermelons.


The mob? A jag of lightning, a geyser, a gravel mass loosening…


The mob … kills or builds … the mob is Attila or Ghengis Khan, the mob is Napoleon,
Lincoln.


I am born in the mob—I die in the mob—the same goes for you—I don’t care who you
are.


I cross the sheets of fire in No Man’s land for you, my brother—I slip a steel tooth into
your throat, you my brother—I die for you and I kill you—It is a twisted and gnarled
thing, a crimson wool:
One more arch of stars,
In the night of our mist,
In the night of our tears.
82 Carl Sandburg

An Electric Sign Goes Dark

Poland, France, Judea ran in her veins,
Singing to Paris for bread, singing to Gotham in a fizz at the pop of a bottle’s cork.


“Won’t you come and play wiz me” she sang … and “I just can’t make my eyes
behave.”
“Higgeldy-Piggeldy,” “Papa’s Wife,” “Follow Me” were plays.


Did she wash her feet in a tub of milk? Was a strand of pearls sneaked from her trunk?
The newspapers asked.
Cigarettes, tulips, pacing horses, took her name.


Twenty years old … thirty … forty …
Forty-five and the doctors fathom nothing, the doctors quarrel, the doctors use silver
tubes feeding twenty-four quarts of blood into the veins, the respects of a prize-fighter,
a cab driver.
And a little mouth moans: It is easy to die when they are dying so many grand deaths
in France.


A voice, a shape, gone.
A baby bundle from Warsaw … legs, torso, head … on a hotel bed at The Savoy.
The white chiselings of flesh that flung themselves in somersaults, straddles, for
packed houses:
A memory, a stage and footlights out, an electric sign on Broadway dark.


She belonged to somebody, nobody.
No one man owned her, no ten nor a thousand.
She belonged to many thousand men, lovers of the white chiseling of arms and
shoulders, the ivory of a laugh, the bells of song.


Railroad brakemen taking trains across Nebraska prairies, lumbermen jaunting in pine
and tamarack of the Northwest, stock ranchers in the middle west, mayors of southern
cities
Say to their pals and wives now: I see by the papers Anna Held is dead.
83 Carl Sandburg

Fellow Citizens

I drank musty ale at the Illinois Athletic Club with
the millionaire manufacturer of Green River butter
one night
And his face had the shining light of an old-time Quaker,
he spoke of a beautiful daughter, and I knew he had
a peace and a happiness up his sleeve somewhere.
Then I heard Jim Kirch make a speech to the Advertising
Association on the trade resources of South America.
And the way he lighted a three-for-a-nickel stogie and
cocked it at an angle regardless of the manners of
our best people,
I knew he had a clutch on a real happiness even though
some of the reporters on his newspaper say he is
the living double of Jack London's Sea Wolf.
In the mayor's office the mayor himself told me he was
happy though it is a hard job to satisfy all the officeseekers
and eat all the dinners he is asked to eat.
Down in Gilpin Place, near Hull House, was a man with
his jaw wrapped for a bad toothache,
And he had it all over the butter millionaire, Jim Kirch
and the mayor when it came to happiness.
He is a maker of accordions and guitars and not only
makes them from start to finish, but plays them
after he makes them.
And he had a guitar of mahogany with a walnut bottom
he offered for seven dollars and a half if I wanted it,
And another just like it, only smaller, for six dollars,
though he never mentioned the price till I asked him,
And he stated the price in a sorry way, as though the
music and the make of an instrument count for a
million times more than the price in money.
I thought he had a real soul and knew a lot about God.
There was light in his eyes of one who has conquered
sorrow in so far as sorrow is conquerable or worth
conquering.
Anyway he is the only Chicago citizen I was jealous of
that day.
He played a dance they play in some parts of Italy
when the harvest of grapes is over and the wine
presses are ready for work.
111 Carl Sandburg