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     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,





          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 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.


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DESOLATE and lone

All night long on the lake

Where fog trails and mist creeps,

The whistle of a boat

Calls and cries unendingly,

Like some lost child

In tears and trouble

Hunting the harbor's breast

And the harbor's eyes.


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I ASKED professors who teach the meaning of life to tell

     me what is happiness.

And I went to famous executives who boss the work of

     thousands of men.

They all shook their heads and gave me a smile as though

     I was trying to fool with them

And then one Sunday afternoon I wandered out along

     the Desplaines river

And I saw a crowd of Hungarians under the trees with

     their women and children and a keg of beer and an



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I WISH to God I never saw you, Mag.

I wish you never quit your job and came along with me.

I wish we never bought a license and a white dress

For you to get married in the day we ran off to a minister

And told him we would love each other and take care of

     each other

Always and always long as the sun and the rain lasts anywhere.

Yes, I'm wishing now you lived somewhere away from here

And I was a bum on the bumpers a thousand miles away

     dead broke.

          I wish the kids had never come

          And rent and coal and clothes to pay for

          And a grocery man calling for cash,

          Every day cash for beans and prunes.

          I wish to God I never saw you, Mag.

          I wish to God the kids had never come.


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    Musings of a Police Reporter in the Identification Bureau


YOU have loved forty women, but you have only one thumb.

You have led a hundred secret lives, but you mark only

     one thumb.

You go round the world and fight in a thousand wars and

     win all the world's honors, but when you come back

     home the print of the one thumb your mother gave

     you is the same print of thumb you had in the old

     home when your mother kissed you and said good-by.

Out of the whirling womb of time come millions of men

and their feet crowd the earth and they cut one anothers'

     throats for room to stand and among them all

     are not two thumbs alike.

Somewhere is a Great God of Thumbs who can tell the

     inside story of this.


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THE fog comes

on little cat feet.

It sits looking

over harbor and city

on silent haunches

and then moves on.


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     I AM singing to you

Soft as a man with a dead child speaks;

Hard as a man in handcuffs,

Held where he cannot move:

     Under the sun

Are sixteen million men,

Chosen for shining teeth,

Sharp eyes, hard legs,

And a running of young warm blood in their wrists.

     And a red juice runs on the green grass;

And a red juice soaks the dark soil.

And the sixteen million are killing. . . and killing

          and killing.

     I never forget them day or night:

They beat on my head for memory of them;

They pound on my heart and I cry back to them,

To their homes and women, dreams and games.

     I wake in the night and smell the trenches,

And hear the low stir of sleepers in lines--

Sixteen million sleepers and pickets in the dark:

Some of them long sleepers for always,

Some of them tumbling to sleep to-morrow for always,

Fixed in the drag of the world's heartbreak,

Eating and drinking, toiling. . . on a long job of


Sixteen million men.


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I AM riding on a limited express, one of the crack trains

     of the nation.

Hurtling across the prairie into blue haze and dark air

     go fifteen all-steel coaches holding a thousand people.

(All the coaches shall be scrap and rust and all the men

     and women laughing in the diners and sleepers shall

     pass to ashes.)

I ask a man in the smoker where he is going and he

     answers: "Omaha."


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WHILE the hum and the hurry

Of passing footfalls

Beat in my ear like the restless surf

Of a wind-blown sea,

A soul came to me

Out of the look on a face.

Eyes like a lake

Where a storm-wind roams

Caught me from under

The rim of a hat.

     I thought of a midsea wreck

     and bruised fingers clinging

     to a broken state-room door.


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THE dago shovelman sits by the railroad track

Eating a noon meal of bread and bologna.

     A train whirls by, and men and women at tables

     Alive with red roses and yellow jonquils,

     Eat steaks running with brown gravy,

     Strawberries and cream, eclaires and coffee.

The dago shovelman finishes the dry bread and bologna,

Washes it down with a dipper from the water-boy,

And goes back to the second half of a ten-hour day's work

Keeping the road-bed so the roses and jonquils

Shake hardly at all in the cut glass vases

Standing slender on the tables in the dining cars.


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     UNDER the harvest moon,

When the soft silver

Drips shimmering

Over the garden nights,

Death, the gray mocker,

Comes and whispers to you

As a beautiful friend

Who remembers.

     Under the summer roses

When the flagrant crimson

Lurks in the dusk

Of the wild red leaves,

Love, with little hands,

Comes and touches you

With a thousand memories,

And asks you

Beautiful, unanswerable questions.


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     STUFF of the moon

Runs on the lapping sand

Out to the longest shadows.

Under the curving willows,

And round the creep of the wave line,

Fluxions of yellow and dusk on the waters

Make a wide dreaming pansy of an old pond in the night.


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I SPOT the hills

With yellow balls in autumn.

I light the prairie cornfields

Orange and tawny gold clusters

And I am called pumpkins.

On the last of October

When dusk is fallen

Children join hands

And circle round me

Singing ghost songs

And love to the harvest moon;

I am a jack-o'-lantern

With terrible teeth

And the children know

I am fooling.


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THE young child, Christ, is straight and wise

And asks questions of the old men, questions

Found under running water for all children

And found under shadows thrown on still waters

By tall trees looking downward, old and gnarled.

Found to the eyes of children alone, untold,

Singing a low song in the loneliness.

And the young child, Christ, goes on asking

And the old men answer nothing and only know love

For the young child. Christ, straight and wise.


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EVERYBODY loved Chick Lorimer in our town.

                    Far off

               Everybody loved her.

So we all love a wild girl keeping a hold

On a dream she wants.

Nobody knows now where Chick Lorimer went.

Nobody knows why she packed her trunk . . . a few

     old things

And is gone,

                    Gone with her little chin

                    Thrust ahead of her

                    And her soft hair blowing careless

                    From under a wide hat,

Dancer, singer, a laughing passionate lover.

Were there ten men or a hundred hunting Chick?

Were there five men or fifty with aching hearts?

               Everybody loved Chick Lorimer.

                    Nobody knows where she's gone.


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I AM a copper wire slung in the air,

Slim against the sun I make not even a clear line of shadow.

Night and day I keep singing--humming and thrumming:

It is love and war and money; it is the fighting and the

     tears, the work and want,

Death and laughter of men and women passing through

     me, carrier of your speech,

In the rain and the wet dripping, in the dawn and the

     shine drying,

               A copper wire.


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