Cornhuskers
Carl Sandburg

LEATHER LEGGINGS

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LEATHER LEGGINGS

THEY have taken the ball of earth
and made it a little thing.
They were held to the land and horses; they were held to the little seas.
They have changed and shaped and welded; they have broken the old tools and made new ones; they are ranging the white scarves of cloudland; they are bumping the sunken bells of the Carthaginians and Phoenicians:
they are handling
the strongest sea
as a thing to be handled.
The earth was a call that mocked; it is belted with wires and meshed with steel; from Pittsburg to Vladivostok is an iron ride on a moving house; from
Jerusalem to Tokyo is a reckoned span; and they talk at night in the storm and salt, the wind and the war.
They have counted the miles to the Sun and Canopus; they have weighed a small blue star that comes in the southeast corner of the sky on a foretold errand.
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We shall search the sea again.
We shall search the stars again.
There are no bars across the way.
There is no end to the plan and the clue, the hunt and the thirst.
The motors are drumming, the leather leggings and the leather coats wait:
Under the sea
and out to the stars
we go.
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PRAYERS OF STEEL

LAY me on an anvil, O God.
Beat me and hammer me into a crowbar.
Let me pry loose old walls.
Let me lift and loosen old foundations.
Lay me on an anvil, O God.
Beat me and hammer me into a steel spike.
Drive me into the girders that hold a skyscraper together.
Take red-hot rivets and fasten me into the central girders.
Let me be the great nail holding a skyscraper through blue nights into white stars.
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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 Page  67 on land and the Titanic at sea? Lighthouses blinking a coast line from Labrador to Key West?
Pigiron 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.
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JABBERERS

I RISE out of my depths with my language.
You rise out of your depths with your language.
Two tongues from the depths,
Alike only as a yellow cat and a green parrot are alike,
Fling their staccato tantalizations
Into a wildcat jabber
Over a gossamer web of unanswerables.
The second and the third silence,
Even the hundredth silence,
Is better than no silence at all
(Maybe this is a jabber too—are we at it again, you and I?)
I rise out of my depths with my language.
You rise out of your depths with your language.
One thing there is much of; the name men call it by is time; into this gulf our syllabic pronunciamentos empty by the way rockets of fire curve and are gone on the night sky; into this gulf the jabberings go as the shower at a scissors grinder's wheel ….
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CARTOON

I AM making a Cartoon of a Woman. She is the People.
She is the Great Dirty Mother.
And Many Children hang on her Apron, crawl at her
Feet, snuggle at her Breasts.
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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 .
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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.
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STREET WINDOW

THE pawn-shop man knows hunger,
And how far hunger has eaten the heart
Of one who comes with an old keepsake.
Here are wedding rings and baby bracelets,
Scarf pins and shoe buckles, jeweled garters,
Old-fashioned knives with inlaid handles,
Watches of old gold and silver,
Old coins worn with finger-marks.
They tell stories.
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PALLADIUMS

IN the newspaper office—who are the spooks?
Who wears the mythic coat invisible?
Who pussyfoots from desk to desk
with a speaking forefinger?
Who gumshoes amid the copy paper
with a whispering thumb?
Speak softly—the sacred cows may hear.
Speak easy—the sacred cows must be fed.
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CLOCKS

HERE is a face that says half-past seven the same way whether a murder or a wedding goes on, whether a funeral or a picnic crowd passes.
A tall one I know at the end of a hallway broods in shadows and is watching booze eat out the insides of the man of the house; it has seen five hopes go in five years: one woman, one child, and three dreams.
A little one carried in a leather box by an actress rides with her to hotels and is under her pillow in a sleeping-car between one-night stands.
One hoists a phiz over a railroad station; it points numbers to people a quarter-mile away who believe it when other clocks fail.
And of course…there are wrist watches over the pulses of airmen eager to go to France …
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LEGENDS

CLOWNS DYING
FIVE circus clowns dying this year, morning newspapers told their lives, how each one horizontal in a last gesture of hands arranged by an undertaker, shook thousands into convulsions of laughter from behind rouge-red lips and powder-white face.
STEAMBOAT BILL
When the boilers of the Robert E. Lee exploded, a steamboat winner of many races on the Mississippi went to the bottom of the river and never again saw the wharves of Natchez and New Orleans.
And a legend lives on that two gamblers were blown toward the sky and during their journey laid bets on which of the two would go higher and which would be first to set foot on the turf of the earth again.
FOOT AND MOUTH PLAGUE
When the mysterious foot and mouth epidemic ravaged the cattle of Illinois, Mrs. Hector Smith wept bitterly over the government killing forty of her soft- eyed Jersey cows; through the newspapers she wept over her loss for millions of readers in the Great
Northwest.
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SEVENS
The lady who has had seven lawful husbands has written seven years for a famous newspaper telling how to find love and keep it: seven thousand hungry girls in the Mississippi Valley have read the instructions seven years and found neither illicit loves nor lawful husbands.
PROFITEER
I who saw ten strong young men die anonymously, I who saw ten old mothers hand over their sons to the nation anonymously, I who saw ten thousand touch the sunlit silver finalities of undistinguished human glory—why do I sneeze sardonically at a bronze drinking fountain named after one who participated in the war vicariously and bought ten farms?
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PSALM OF THOSE WHO GO FORTH BEFORE DAYLIGHT

THE policeman buys shoes slow and careful; the teamster buys gloves slow and careful; they take care of their feet and hands; they live on their feet and hands.
The milkman never argues; he works alone and no one speaks to him; the city is asleep when he is on the job; he puts a bottle on six hundred porches and calls it a day's work; he climbs two hundred wooden stairways; two horses are company for him; he never argues.
The rolling-mill men and the sheet-steel men are brothers of cinders; they empty cinders out of their shoes after the day's work; they ask their wives to fix burnt holes in the knees of their trousers; their necks and ears are covered with a smut; they scour their necks and ears; they are brothers of cinders.
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HORSES AND MEN IN RAIN

LET us sit by a hissing steam radiator a winter's day, gray wind pattering frozen raindrops on the window,
And let us talk about milk wagon drivers and grocery delivery boys.
Let us keep our feet in wool slippers and mix hot punches—and talk about mail carriers and messenger boys slipping along the icy sidewalks.
Let us write of olden, golden days and hunters of the
Holy Grail and men called "knights" riding horses in the rain, in the cold frozen rain for ladies they loved.
A roustabout hunched on a coal wagon goes by, icicles drip on his hat rim, sheets of ice wrapping the hunks of coal, the caravanserai a gray blur in slant of rain.
Let us nudge the steam radiator with our wool slippers and write poems of Launcelot, the hero, and Roland, the hero, and all the olden golden men who rode horses in the rain.
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QUESTIONNAIRE

HAVE I told any man to be a liar for my sake?
Have I sold ice to the poor in summer and coal to the poor in winter for the sake of daughters who nursed brindle bull terriers and led with a leash their dogs clothed in plaid wool jackets?
Have I given any man an earful too much of my talk— or asked any man to take a snootful of booze on my account?
Have I put wool in my own ears when men tried to tell me what was good for me? Have I been a bum listener?
Have I taken dollars from the living and the unborn while I made speeches on the retributions that shadow the heels of the dishonest?
Have I done any good under cover? Or have I always put it in the show windows and the newspapers?
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NEAR KEOKUK

THIRTY-TWO Greeks are dipping their feet in a creek.
Sloshing their bare feet in a cool flow of clear water.
All one midsummer day ten hours the Greeks stand in leather shoes shoveling gravel.
Now they hold their toes and ankles to the drift of running water.
Then they go to the bunk cars and eat mulligan and prune sauce,
Smoke one or two pipefuls, look at the stars, tell smutty stories
About men and women they have known, countries they have seen,
Railroads they have built— and then the deep sleep of children.
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SLANTS AT BUFFALO, NEW YORK

A Forefinger of stone, dreamed by a sculptor, points to the sky.
It says: This way! this way!
Four lions snore in stone at the corner of the shaft.
They too are the dream of a sculptor.
They too say: This way! this way!
The street cars swing at a curve.
The middle-class passengers witness low life.
The car windows frame low life all day in pictures.
Two Italian cellar delicatessens sell red and green peppers.
The Florida bananas furnish a burst of yellow.
The lettuce and the cabbage give a green.
Boys play marbles in the cinders.
The boys' hands need washing.
The boys are glad; they fight among each other.
A plank bridge leaps the Lehigh Valley railroad.
Then acres of steel rails, freight cars, smoke,
And then … the blue lake shore
… Erie with Norse blue eyes… and the white Sun.
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FLAT LANDS

FLAT lands on the end of town where real estate men are crying new subdivisions,
The sunsets pour blood and fire over you hundreds and hundreds of nights, flat lands—blood and fire of sunsets thousands of years have been pouring over you.
And the stars follow the sunsets. One gold star. A shower of blue stars. Blurs of white and gray stars.
Vast marching processions of stars arching over you flat lands where frogs sob this April night.
"Lots for Sale—Easy Terms" run letters painted on a board—and the stars wheel onward, the frogs sob this April night.
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LAWYER

WHEN the jury files in to deliver a verdict after weeks of direct and cross examinations, hot clashes of lawyers and cool decisions of the judge,
There are points of high silence—twiddling of thumbs is at an end—bailiffs near cuspidors take fresh chews of tobacco and wait—and the clock has a chance for its ticking to be heard.
A lawyer for the defense clears his throat and holds himself ready if the word is "Guilty" to enter motion for a new trial, speaking in a soft voice, speaking in a voice slightly colored with bitter wrongs mingled with monumental patience, speaking with mythic Atlas shoulders of many preposterous, unjust circumstances.
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THREE BALLS

JABOWSKY'S place is on a side street and only the rain washes the dusty three balls.
When I passed the window a month ago, there rested in proud isolation:
A family bible with hasps of brass twisted off, a wooden clock with pendulum gone,
And a porcelain crucifix with the glaze nicked where the left elbow of Jesus is represented.
I passed to-day and they were all there, resting in proud isolation, the clock and the crucifix saying no more and no less than before, and a yellow cat sleeping in a patch of sun alongside the family bible with the hasps off.
Only the rain washes the dusty three balls in front of
Jabowsky's place on a side street.
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CHICKS

THE chick in the egg picks at the shell , cracks open one oval world, and enters another oval world.
"Cheep … cheep… cheep" is the salutation of the newcomer, the emigrant, the casual at the gates of the new world.
" Cheep… cheep"… from oval to oval, sunset to sunset, star to star.
It is at the door of this house, this teeny weeny eggshell exit, it is here men say a riddle and jeer each other: who are you? where do you go from here?
In the academies many books, at the circus many sacks of peanuts, at the club rooms many cigar butts.)
" Cheep … cheep"… from oval to oval, sunset to sunset, star to star.
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HUMDRUM

IF I had a million lives to live
and a million deaths to die
in a million humdrum worlds,
I'd like to change my name and have a new house number to go by
each and every time I died
and started life all over again.
I wouldn't want the same name every time
and the same old house number always,
dying a million deaths,
dying one by one a million times:
—would you?
or you?
or you?
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JOLIET

ON the one hand the steel works.
On the other hand the penitentiary.
Sante Fé trains and Alton trains
Between smokestacks on the west
And gray walls on the east.
And Lockport down the river.
Part of the valley is God's.
And part is man's.
The river course laid out
A thousand years ago.
The canals ten years back.
The sun on two canals and one river
Makes three stripes of silver
Or copper and gold
Or shattered sunflower leaves.
Talons of an iceberg
Scraped out this valley.
Claws of an avalanche loosed here.
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KNUCKS

IN Abraham Lincoln's city,
Where they remember his lawyer's shingle,
The place where they brought him
Wrapped in battle flags,
Wrapped in the smoke of memories
From Tallahassee to the Yukon,
The place now where the shaft of his tomb
Points white against the blue prairie dome,
In Abraham Lincoln's city … I saw knucks
In the window of Mister Fischman's second-hand store
On Second Street.
I went in and asked, "How much?"
"Thirty cents apiece," answered Mister Fischman.
And taking a box of new ones off a shelf
He filled anew the box in the showcase
And said incidentally, most casually
And incidentally:
"I sell a carload a month of these."
I slipped my fingers into a set of knucks,
Cast-iron knucks molded in a foundry pattern,
And there came to me a set of thoughts like these:
Mister Fischman is for Abe and the "malice to none" stuff,
And the street car strikers and the strike-breakers,
And the sluggers, gunmen, detectives, policemen,
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Judges, utility heads, newspapers, priests, lawyers,
They are all for Abe and the "malice to none" stuff.
I started for the door.
"Maybe you want a lighter pair,"
Came Mister Fischman's voice.
I opened the door … and the voice again:
"You are a funny customer."
Wrapped in battle flags,
Wrapped in the smoke of memories,
This is the place they brought him,
This is Abraham Lincoln's home town.
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TESTAMENT

I GIVE the undertakers permission to haul my body to the graveyard and to lay away all, the head, the feet, the hands, all: I know there is something left over they can not put away.
Let the nanny goats and the billy goats of the shanty people eat the clover over my grave and if any yellow hair or any blue smoke of flowers is good enough to grow over me let the dirty-fisted children of the shanty people pick these flowers.
I have had my chance to live with the people who have too much and the people who have too little and I chose one of the two and I have told no man why.
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