Carl Sandburg
Chicago (1916)

 

Hog Butcher for the World,

 

Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,

 

Player with Railroads and the Nation's Freight

 

Handler;

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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.

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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

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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

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so proud to be alive and coarse and strong and cun-

 

ning.

 

Flinging magnetic curses amid the toil of piling job on

 

job, here is a tall bold slugger set vivid against the

 

little soft cities;

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Fierce as a dog with tongue lapping for action, cunning

 

as a savage pitted against the wilderness,

 

Bareheaded,

 

Shoveling,

 

Wrecking,

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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

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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,

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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.