Friday, April 3, 2015

The Windy City by Carl Sandburg

Celebrating National Poetry Month
Carl Sandburg, excerpt from The Windy City (section one):
With photography copyright ©2015 by Thomas McNulty

The lean hands of wagon men
put out pointing fingers here,
picked this crossway, put it on a map,   
set up their sawbucks, fixed their shotguns,
found a hitching place for the pony express,
made a hitching place for the iron horse,
the one-eyed horse with the fire-spit head,
found a homelike spot and said, “Make a home,”   
saw this corner with a mesh of rails, shuttling
       people, shunting cars, shaping the junk of
       the earth to a new city. 

The hands of men took hold and tugged
and the breaths of men went into the junk
and the junk stood up into skyscrapers and asked:
Who am I? Am I a city? And if I am what is my name?
And once while the time whistles blew and blew again
the men answered: Long ago we gave you a name,
long ago we laughed and said: You? Your name is Chicago.

Early the red men gave a name to the river,   
       the place of the skunk,   
       the river of the wild onion smell,   

Out of the payday songs of steam shovels,   
out of the wages of structural iron rivets,   
the living lighted skyscrapers tell it now as a name,   
tell it across miles of sea blue water, gray blue land:
I am Chicago, I am a name given out by the breaths of working men,   
       laughing men, a child, a belonging.  

So between the Great Lakes,   
the Grand De Tour, and the Grand Prairie,   
the living lighted skyscrapers stand,
spotting the blue dusk with checkers of yellow,
       streamers of smoke and silver,   
       parallelograms of night-gray watchmen,   
singing a soft moaning song: I am a child, a belonging. 

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