by Carl Sandburg
Hog Butcher for the World,
Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
Player with Railroads and the Nation's Freight Handler;
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.
And they tell me you are crooked and I answer: Yes, it
is true I have seen the gunman kill and go free to
And they tell me you are brutal and my reply is: On the
faces of women and children I have seen the marks
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
so proud to be alive and coarse and strong and cunning.
Flinging magnetic curses amid the toil of piling job on
job, here is a tall bold slugger set vivid against the
little soft cities;
Fierce as a dog with tongue lapping for action, cunning
as a savage pitted against the wilderness,
Building, breaking, rebuilding,
Under the smoke, dust all over his mouth, laughing with
Under the terrible burden of destiny laughing as a young
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 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.
Tomorrow I will get on a plane, fly six hundred miles and land at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, which I have considered to be my second home for nearly two decades.
I could have probably gotten away with spending my Spring Break in Florida, or California, or Nashville, or somewhere else just a little warmer and more picturesque. I wouldn't have gone to any of those places if someone payed me. I love Chicago and I love flying in from over it, looking at the lights that seem to extend on forever in one direction and cut off at Lake Michigan in another.
I think there is a lot of truth in this poem. Chicago is definitely wicked, crooked, brutal. It is often an ugly city; deteriorating structures, regular murders, corruption, pungent smells rising from the sewers. It is a flawed, extreme environment. But I think all that is part of what makes it truly alive, and in a way humanistic. I don't think there is more of a realistic amalgamation of what life in the world is really about, with its beautiful sights, ugly blemishes and all.
I will stay for a night in the city proper, go to an Irish punk show on St. Patrick's Day, and go to the Art Institute of Chicago to look at Monets and Renoirs the next day. I couldn't be more excited.
This post will be cross-posted on my personal blog, Kaini Industries.