Cornhuskers
Carl Sandburg

PERSONS HALF KNOWN

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CHICAGO POET

I SALUTED a nobody.
I saw him in a looking-glass.
He smiled—so did I.
He crumpled the skin on his forehead, frowning—so did I.
Everything I did he did.
I said, "Hello, I know you."
And I was a liar to say so.
Ah, this. looking-glass man!
Liar, fool, dreamer, play-actor,
Soldier, dusty drinker of dust—
Ah! he will go with me
Down the dark stairway
When nobody else is looking,
When everybody else is gone.
He locks his elbow in mine,
I lose all—but not him.
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FIRE-LOGS

NANCY HANKS dreams by the fire;
Dreams, and the logs sputter,
And the yellow tongues climb.
Red lines lick their way in flickers.
Oh, sputter, logs.
Oh, dream, Nancy.
Time now for a beautiful child.
Time now for a tall man to come.
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REPETITIONS

THEY are crying salt tears
Over the beautiful beloved body
Of Inez Milholland,
Because they are glad she lived,
Because she loved open-armed,
Throwing love for a cheap thing
Belonging to everybody—
Cheap as sunlight,
And morning air.
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ADELAIDE CRAPSEY

AMONG the bumble-bees in red-top hay, a freckled field of brown-eyed Susans dripping yellow leaves in July,
I read your heart in a book.
And your mouth of blue pansy—I know somewhere I have seen it rain-shattered.
And I have seen a woman with her head flung between her naked knees, and her head held there listening to the sea, the great naked sea shouldering a load of salt.
And the blue pansy mouth sang to the sea:
Mother of God, I'm so little a thing,
Let me sing longer,
Only a little longer.
And the sea shouldered its salt in long gray combers hauling new shapes on the beach sand.
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YOUNG BULLFROGS

JIMMY WIMBLETON listened a first week in June.
Ditches along prairie roads of Northern Illinois
Filled the arch of night with young bullfrog songs.
Infinite mathematical metronomic croaks rose and spoke,
Rose and sang, rose in a choir of puzzles.
They made his head ache with riddles of music.
They rested his head with beaten cadence.
Jimmy Wimbledon listened.
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MEMOIR OF A PROUD BOY

HE lived on the wings of storm.
The ashes are in Chihuahua.
Out of Ludlow and coal towns in Colorado
Sprang a vengeance of Slav miners, Italians, Scots, Cornishmen, Yanks.
Killings ran under the spoken commands of this boy
With eighty men and rifles on a hogback mountain.
They killed swearing to remember
The shot and charred wives and children
In the burnt camp of Ludlow,
And Louis Tikas, the laughing Greek,
Plugged with a bullet, clubbed with a gun butt.
As a home war
It held the nation a week
And one or two million men stood together
And swore by the retribution of steel.
It was all accidental.
He lived flecking lint off coat lapels
Of men he talked with.
He kissed the miners' babies
And wrote a Denver paper
Of picket silhouettes on a mountain line.
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He had no mother but Mother Jones
Crying from a jail window of Trinidad:
"All I want is room enough to stand
And shake my fist at the enemies of the human race."
Named by a grand jury as a murderer
He went to Chihuahua, forgot his old Scotch name,
Smoked cheroots with Pancho Villa
And wrote letters of Villa as a rock of the people.
How can I tell how Don Magregor went?
Three riders emptied lead into him.
He lay on the main street of an inland town.
A boy sat near all day throwing stones
To keep pigs away.
The Villa men buried him in a pit
With twenty Carranzistas.
There is drama in that point …
… the boy and the pigs.
Griffith would make a movie of it to fetch sobs.
Victor Herbert would have the drums whirr
In a weave with a high fiddle-string's single clamor.
"And the muchacho sat there all day throwing stones
To keep the pigs away," wrote Gibbons to the Tribune.
Somewhere in Chihuahua or Colorado
Is a leather bag of poems and short stories.
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BILBEA

(From tablet writing, Babylonian excavations of 4th millennium B.C.)

BILBEA, I was in Babylon on Saturday night.
I saw nothing of you anywhere.
I was at the old place and the other girls were there, but no Bilbea.
Have you gone to another house? or city?
Why don't you write?
I was sorry. I walked home half-sick.
Tell me how it goes.
Send me some kind of a letter.
And take care of yourself.
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SOUTHERN PACIFIC

HUNTINGTON sleeps in a house six feet long.
Huntington dreams of railroads he built and owned.
Huntington dreams of ten thousand men saying: Yes, sir.
Blithery sleeps in a house six feet long.
Blithery dreams of rails and ties he laid.
Blithery dreams of saying to Huntington: Yes, sir.
Huntington,
Blithery, sleep in houses six feet long.
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WASHERWOMAN

THE washerwoman is a member of the Salvation Army.
And over the tub of suds rubbing underwear clean
She sings that Jesus will wash her sins away,
And the red wrongs she has done God and man
Shall be white as driven snow.
Rubbing underwear she sings of the Last Great Washday.
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PORTRAIT OF A MOTOR CAR

IT'S a lean car… a long-legged dog of a car … a gray-ghost eagle car.
The feet of it eat the dirt of a road… the wings of it eat the hills.
Danny the driver dreams of it when he sees women in red skirts and red sox in his sleep.
It is in Danny's life and runs in the blood of him … a lean gray-ghost car.
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GIRL IN A CAGE

HERE in a cage the dollars come down.
To the click of a tube the dollars tumble.
And out of a mouth the dollars run.
I finger the dollars,
Paper and silver,
Thousands a day.
Some days it's fun
to finger the dollars.
Some days…
the dollars keep on
in a sob or a whisper:
A flame of rose in the hair,
A flame of silk at the throat.
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BUFFALO BILL

BOY heart of Johnny Jones—aching to-day?
Aching, and Buffalo Bill in town?
Buffalo Bill and ponies, cowboys, Indians?
Some of us know
All about it, Johnny Jones.
Buffalo Bill is a slanting look of the eyes,
A slanting look under a hat on a horse.
He sits on a horse and a passing look is fixed
On Johnny Jones, you and me, barelegged,
A slanting, passing, careless look under a hat on a horse.
Go clickety-clack, O pony hoofs along the street.
Come on and slant your eyes again, O Buffalo Bill.
Give us again the ache of our boy hearts.
Fill us again with the red love of prairies, dark nights, lonely wagons, and the crack-crack of rifles sputtering flashes into an ambush.
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SIXTEEN MONTHS

ON the lips of the child Janet float changing dreams.
It is a thin spiral of blue smoke,
A morning campfire at a mountain lake.
On the lips of the child Janet,
Wisps of haze on ten miles of corn,
Young light blue calls to young light gold of morning.
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CHILD MARGARET

THE child Margaret begins to write numbers on a Saturday morning, the first numbers formed under her wishing child fingers.
All the numbers come well-born, shaped in figures assertive for a frieze in a child's room.
Both 1 and 7 are straightforward, military, filled with lunge and attack, erect in shoulder-straps.
The 6 and 9 salute as dancing sisters, elder and younger, and 2 is a trapeze actor singing to handclaps
All the numbers are well-born, only 3 has a hump on its back and 8 is knock-kneed.
The child Margaret kisses all once and gives two kisses to 3 and 8.
(Each number is a bran-new rag doll… O in the wishing fingers millions of rag dolls, millions and millions of new rag dolls!!)
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SINGING NIGGER

YOUR bony head, Jazbo, O dock walloper,
Those grappling hooks, those wheelbarrow handlers,
The dome and the wings of you, nigger,
The red roof and the door of you,
I know where your songs came from.
I know why God listens to your, "Walk All Over God's Heaven."
I heard you shooting craps, "My baby's going to have a new dress."
I heard you in the cinders, "I'm going to live anyhow until I die."
I saw five of you with a can of beer on a summer night and I listened to the five of you harmonizing six ways to sing, "Way Down Yonder in the Cornfield."
I went away asking where I come from.
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