Thursday, November 1, 2012

"Of the Big Shoulders, City": a poem*

Posted By on 11.01.12 at 06:00 PM

Of the Big Shoulders, City
  • Joe+Jeanette Archie
  • Of Tribune Tower, a photograph
* An @NYTprepositions-style tribute, with apologies to @NYTprepositions, #NYTbooks, Carl Sandburg, the city of Chicago, readers of the Chicago Reader, Yoda, the New York Times, Jen Doll, my parents, and everybody else.

For the World, Hog Butcher
   Tool Maker, of Wheat, Stacker
   With Railroads, Player, and the Nation's Freight Handler;
    Stormy, husky, brawling,
    Of the Big Shoulders, City:

They tell me you are wicked and I believe them, for under the gas lamps I have seen your painted women 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 to kill again go free.
And they tell me you are brutal and my reply is: On the faces of women and children [ed. note: shit] of wanton hunger I have seen the marks.
And having answered so to those who sneer at this my city I turn once more, and back the sneer I give them and to them say:
Come and show me with lifted head singing so proud to be alive and coarse and strong and cunning another city.
Amid the toil flinging magnetic curses of piling on job, job, against the little soft cities here is a tall bold slugger set vivid;
Fierce as a dog with tongue for action lapping, cunning as a savage against the wilderness pitted,
    Bareheaded,
    Shoveling,
    Wrecking,
    Planning,
    Building, breaking, rebuilding,
Under the smoke, all over his mouth dust, with white teeth laughing,
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!
Laughing the stormy, husky, brawling laughter of Youth, half-naked, sweating, proud to be Hog Butcher, Tool Maker, of Wheat, Stacker, with Railroads, Player and to the Nation, Freight Handler.

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