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February 15, 2006

Poetry Wednesday: Sandburg

I stopped in Springfield Illinois a few years ago, just to pay my respects to President Lincoln. Here's an account of a visit by Carl Sandburg, from 1918.


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,
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.

I might wonder why Carl Sandburg would need knucks. But then I would be committing the error of assuming that all poetry is autobiography.

Posted by annika, Feb. 15, 2006 | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: Poetry


That's more like it, Annie! I love the rhythm of Sandburg; so subtle, you think it's prose till you read it aloud...

Posted by: Hugo on Feb. 15, 2006

Sandburg's one of my favorite poets and one of the reasons I love Chicago. Hurray.

Posted by: lorie on Feb. 15, 2006