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I 




^NT- 




■1^ 



MID-AMERICAN CHANTS 



BY THE SAME AUTHOR 

MARCHING MEN $1.50 net 

WINDY MCPHERSON'S SON . $140 net 

John Lane Company: New York 



MID-AMERICAN 
CHANTS 

BY SHERWOOD ^DERSON 

km<m. Off "KAicBDio MEM," "wmDY McranaoM's aon." sxc. 



NEW YORK: JOHN LANE COMPANY 
LONDON: JOHN LANE, THE BODLEY HEAD 
MCMXVIII ^ 






copyhight, 1918, 
By John Lane Company 



713205 



Pittsof 

J. J. Little & Ives Compu^ 

New York, U. S. A. 



TO 

MARION MARGARET ANDERSON 

THIS BOOR IS DEDICATED 



FOREWORD 

I do not believe that we people of mid-western Amer- 
ica, immersed as we are in affairs, hurried and harried 
throu^ life by the terrible engine — ^industrialism — ^have 
come to the time of song. To me it seems that song be- 
longs with and has its birth in the memory of older things 
than we know. In the beaten paths of life, when many 
generations of men have walked the streets of a city or 
wandered at night in the hills of an old land, the dinger 
arises. 

The singer is neither young nor old but within him al- 
wajrs there is s(»nething that is very old. The flavor of 
many lives lived and of many gone weary to the end of 
life creeps into his voice. Words run out beyond the 
power of words. There is unworldly beauty in the song 
of him who sings out of the souls of peoples of old times 
and places but that beauty does not yet belong to us. 

In Middle America men are awakening. Like awkward 
and untrained boys we begin to turn toward maturity and 
with our awakening we hunger for song. But in our 
towns and fields there are few memory haunted places. ^ 
Here we stand in roaring city streets, on steaming coal 
heaps, in the shadow of factories from which come only 
the grinding roar of machines. We do not sing but mut- 
ter in the darkness. Our lips are cracked with dust and 

7 Z-^'-ij-^ 



with the heat of furnaces. We but mutter and feel our 
way toward the promise of song. 

For this book of chants I ask cmly that it be allowed 
to stand stark against the background of my own place and 
generation. Honest Americans will not demand beauty 
tfiat is not yet native to our cities and fields. In secret a 
million men and women are trying, as I have tried here, to 
express the himger within and I have dared to put these 
chants forth only because I hope and believe they may find 
an answering and clearer call in the hearts of other Mid- 
Americans. 

Sherwood Anderson. 

Chicago^ February^ igi8. 



CONTENTS 



VAOB 



Thb Cornfields ii 

Chicago 13 

Song op Industrial America 15 

Song of Cedric the Silent 19 

Song of the Break of Day 21 

Song of the Beginning of Courage 22 

Revolt • .23 

A Lullaby • 24 

Song of Theodore 25 

Manhattan 29 

Spring Song . . . . . . . . .30 

Industrialism 31 

Salvq 33 

The Planting .34 

Song of the Miix>lb World 35 

The Stranger 36 

Song of the Love of Women 37 

Song of Stephen the Westerner 38 

Song to the Lost Ones 41 

Forgotten Song 42 

American Spring Song 44 

The Beam 46 

Song to New Song 47 

Song for Dark Nights 48 

9 



FAOX 

The Lover . ' 49 

Night Whispers 50 

Song TO THE Sap 51 

Rhythms 52 

Unbohn 53 

Night 54 

A Visit 55 

Chant to Dawn in a Factory Town .... 56 

Song of the Mating Time 58 

Song for Lonely Roads 60 

Song Long After 61 

Song of the Soul of Chicago 62 

Song of the Drunken Business Man .... 64 

Song to the Laugh 65 

HOSANNA 67 

War 68 

Mid-American Prayer 69 

We Enter In 73 

Dirge of War 74 

Little Song to a Western Statesman .... 76 

Song of the Bug 77 

Assurance 78 

Reminiscent Song 80 

Evening Song 81 

Song of the Singer 82 



10 



THE CORNFIELDS 

I am pregnant with song. My body aches but do not betray 
me. I will sing songs and hide them away. I will tear 
them into bits and throw them in the street. The streets 
of my city are full of dark holes. I will hide my songs 
in the holes of the streets. 

In the darkness of the night I awoke and the bands that 
bind me were broken. I was determined to bring old 
things into the land of the new. A sacred vessel I found 
and ran with it into the fields, into the long fields where 
the com rustles. 

All of the people of my time were bound with chains. They 
had forgotten the Icmg fields and the standing com. 
They had forgotten the west winds. 

Into the cities my people had gathered. They had become 
dizzy with words. Words had choked them. They 
could not breathe. 

On my knees I crawled before my people. I debased myself. 
The excreticms of their bodies I took for my food. Into 
the ground I went and my body died. I emerged in the 
com, in the long cornfields. My head arose and was 
touched by the west wind. The light of old things, of 
beautiful old things, awoke in me. In the cornfields 
the sacred vessel is set up. 

I will renew in my people the worship of gods. I will set 
up for a king before them. A king shall arise before my 
II 



people. The sacred vessel shall be filled with the sweet 
oil of the corn. 

• 
The flesh of my body is become good. With your white 
teeth you may bite me. My arm that was withered has 
become strong. In the quiet night streets of my city old 
things are awake. 

I awoke and the bands that bind me were broken. I was 
determined to bring love into the hearts of my people. 
The sacred vessel was put into my hands and I ran with 
it into the fields. In the long cornfields the sacred vessel 
is set up. 



12 



CHICAGO 

I am mature, a man child, in America, in the West, in the 
great valley of the Mississippi. My head arises above 
the cornfields. I stand up among the new com. 

I am a child, a confused child in a confused world. There 
are no clothes made that fit me. TTie m inds of men 
cannot clothe me. Great projects arise within me. I 
liave a brain and it is cunning and shrewd. 

I want leisure to become beautiful, but there is no leisure. 
Men should bathe me with prayers and with weeping, 
but there are no men. 

Now — from now — from to-day I shall do deeds of fiery 
meaning. Songs shall arise in my throat and hurt me. 

I am a little thing, a tiny little thing on the vast prairies. 
I know nothing. My mouth is dirty. I cannot tell what 
I want. My feet are sunk in the black swampy land, but 

/ I am a lover. I love life. In the end love shall save me. 

The days are long — ^it rains — it snows. I am an old man. 
I am sweeping the ground where my grave shall be. 

Look upon me, my beloved, my lover who does not come. 
I am raw and bleeding, a new thing in a new worlc^ I 
run swiftly o'er bare fields. Listen — ^there is the soimd 
of the tramping of many feet. Life is dying in me. I 
am old and palsied. I am just at the beginning of my 
life. 

13 



•/ 



c/ 



Do you not see that I am old, O my beloved? Do you 
not imderstand that I cannot sing, that my songs choke 
me? Do you not see that I am so yoimg I cannot find 
the word in the confusion of words? 



I2L 



SONG OF INDUSTRIAL AMERICA 

They tell themselves so many little lies, my beloved. Now 
wait, little one — ^we can't sing. We are standing in a 
crowd, by a bridge, in the West. Hear the voices — 
turn around — let's go h(Mne — ^I am tired. They tell 
themselves so many little lies. 

You remember in the ni^t we arose. We were young. 
There was smoke in the passage and you lauded. Was 
it gpod — ^that black smoke? Look away to the streams 
and the lake. We're alive. See my hand — how it 
trembles on the rail. 

Here is song, here in America, here now, in our time. Now 
wait — ^rU go to the train. I'll not swing oflE into tunes. 
I'm all right — ^I just want to talk. 

You watch my hand on the rail of this bridge. I press 
down. The blood goes down — ^there. That steadies me 
— ^it makes me all ri^t. 

Now here's how it's going to comt — the song, I mean. I've 
watched things, men and faces — ^I know. 

First there are the broken things — myself and the others. 
I don't mind that — ^I'm gone — shot to pieces. I'm part 
of the scheme — ^I'm the broken end of a song myself. 
We are all that, here in the West, here in Chicago. 
Tongues clatter against teeth. There's nothing but shrill 
screams and a rattle. That had to be — ^it's a part of the 
scheme. 

15 



Souls^ dry soulSj rattle around. 
Winter of song. Winter of song. 

Now, faint little voices do lift up. They are swept away 
in the void — that's true enough. It had to be so from 
the very first. Pshaw — ^I'm steady enough — ^let me alone. 
Keokuk, Tennessee, Michigan, Chicago, Kalamazoo— 
don't the names in this country make you fairly drunk"? 
We'll stand by this brown stream for hours. I'll not be 
swept away. Watch my hand — how steady it is. To 
catch this song and smg it would do much — make much 
clear. 

CcMiie close to me warm little thing. It is night — ^I am 
cold. When I was a boy in my village here in the West, 
I always knew all the old men. How sweet they were 
— quite Biblical too — makers of wagons and hamess and 
plows — sailors and soldiers and pioneers. We got Walt 
and Abraham out of that lot. 



\ Then a change came. 



Drifting along. Drifting along. 
Winter of song. Winter of song. 

you know my city — Chicago triumphant — ^factories and 
marts and the roar of machines — ^horrible, terrible, ugly 
and brutal. 

It crushed thmgs idown and down. Nobody wanted to hurt. 
They didn't want to hurt me or you. They were caught 
themselves. I know the old men here — milliomdres. I've 

i6 



C&^3 



always known old men all my life. I'm old myself. You 
would never guess how old I am. 

Can a singer arise and sing in this smoke and grime? Can 
he keep his throat clear? Can his courage survive? 

I'll tell you what it is — ^now you be still. To Hell with 
you. Pm an old empty barrel floating in the stream — 
that's what I am. You stand away. I've come to life. 
My arms lift up— I begin to swim. 

Hell and damnation — ^tum me loose. The floods come on. 
That isn't the roar of the trains at all. It's the flood — 
the terrible, horrible flood turned loose. 

Winter of song. Winter of song. 
Carried along. Carried along. 

Now in the midst of the broken waters of my civilization 
rhythm begins. Clear above the flood I raise my ringing 
voice. In the disorder and darkness of the night, in the 
wind and the washing waves, I shout to my brothers — 
lost in the flood. 

Little faint be^nnings of things — old things dead — sweet 
old things — a life lived in Chicago— in the West — ^in the 
whirl of industrial America. 

God knows you might have beccMne s(xnething else — ^just 
like me. You mi^t have made soft little tunes — ^written 
cynical little ditties, eh? Why the devil didn't you make 
some money and own an automobile? 

17 



Do you believe — ^now listen — ^I do. Say, you — ^now listen — 
do you believe the hand of God reached down to me in 
the flood? I do. 'Twas like a streak of fire along my 
back. That* s a lie, of course. The face of God looked 
down at me, over the rim of the world. 

Don^t you sec we arc all a part of scxnething, here in the 
West? We're trying to break throu^. I'm a song my- 
self, the broken end of a song myself. 

Wc have to sing, you see, here in the darkness. All men 
have to sing — ^poor broken things. We have to sing here 
in the darkness in the roaring flood. We have to find 
each other. Have you courage to-night for a song? Lift 
your voices. Come. 



i8 



SONG OF CEDRIC THE SILENT 

Songs cOTie to my lips every hour. I shall hurl my songs 
down the winds of the world. Like a blow, a kiss, a 
caress, my songs shall come. 

Like a guest I am come into the house, the terrible house. 
So gentle and quiet I come they do not know me. The 
soa of Irwin and Emma I am, here in America, come into 
a kingship. 

I would destroy and build up. I would set up new kings. 
The impatience has gone out of me. Hatred and evil 
I have put far away. 

Do you remember when you crept close to me, wanting to 
touch my body? What a ni^t — how it rained. 

How could you know, how could you know in me there was 
oblivion? 

The terrible poison of my body has laid waste the land. 
I embrace Hell for you, go to my damnation for my love 
of you. 

Into the land of my fathers, f rcan Huron to Keokuk, beauty 
shall come— out of the black ground, out ef the deep 
black ground. 

Squaw man, red man, old and decrepit, into the mighty 

wheels of the en^ne I hurl these songs. 
19 



Twenty weeks I lay on the bleak hillside, waiting for you. 
When you came and spoke how I trembled. Down the 
lane, through the woods to the meadows you ran. Then 
I knew. 

Broad long fields. Wheat that stands up. 

Cedric, the son of Irwin and Emma, stand up. Give your 
life, ^ve your soul to America now. Cedric, be strong. 



20 



SONG OF THE BREAK OF DAY 

I am tired and very old — just the muscles ot my arais still 

alive. 
Cumiing little muscles, betraying, not caring how very old 

and tired I am. 
Did you think, O my beloved, I was young? Did my 

laughing face and laughing eyes tell you lies? 
In Chicago many faces, drifting, perplexing, confusing, de- 
stroying, betraying, confounding. 
Now stop— little love warm and still — ^try to think. 
Nod your head. Sway! Wait! Try to believe. 
Stronger, deeper, stronger — good arms, sweep them forth — 

over the land — ^wide — ^wide — over the land — ^break — 

break — come to life. 
Ninety, a thousand, a million, a nation. Com in long fields 

and slender young wheat. See my young strength how 

it grows. I am casting you forth. 
Buried away in the mines in the hills — strong arm, long 

arm. Gripping the gold and the ashes of ages. Did you 

think I was old and too tired to find love? 
Love, 
I awake. 



21 



SONG OF THE BEGINNING OF COURAGE 

I am come with infinite slowness into my kingship. At 
night I lay down by the window. The little flat bands 
that bind my body were tense. I am the first to come 
into the new kingship. 

By the long aisles of the com you must go, little brothers, 
narrow and long the way. The com in its struggle whis* 
pers and sways. Courage — ^always new courage. 

In — deeper in — far from the stars — let the wide soft com 
leaves whisper to you. 

Crush and trample^ brother^ brother — crush and trample 

^til you die. 
Do not hold thy hand from strangling — crush and trample 

*til you die. 

Back of the com — ^back of the com — ^bold and free my 
kingdoms lie. 
^ Ninety men upon the bridges ninety swift hawks in the 
<^ sky. 

I am come to the face of the gods through the cornfields. 

Back to the womb of my mother I go. 
Adie — ache — ache and behold me. Lay thy hot hands on 

my thigh. 

Crush and trample^ brother^ brother — crush and trample 

Hil you die. 
Do not hold thy hand from strangling — crush and trample 

^til you die. 

22 



REVOLT 

Bring hither the beams of the comcribs^ my children. The 
dung heaps are burned. Strong hands have gripped the 
rope whereby the horses were tied. The fish nets of the 
Northwest and the sheep gates of Michigan arc opened 
tome. 

I have put my neck and my hands to the work, O my chil- 
dren. How black your eyes have become. They gleam 
in the darkness. The souls of Ulysses and of Abraham 
have been opened to me. By the coal heaps near the 
factory door my men are assembled. 

Tipping the water-gates of the rivers the night riders assem- 
ble. In the cities the grey little foxes lie low. By the 
howling of dogs in the silence the decay of men is pro- 
claimed. 

Long ni^ts we were weeping the prelude, my brothers. 
The madness and washing of hanc^ has been done. The 
sweetness of apples — the fatness of cornfields — the whor- 
ing of men for strange gods is begun. 



23 



A LULLABY 

I am become one with you. I am old. I am tired. 

Watch my hands how they slip. One by one the fingers 
let go. 

Into my house ccMnes my enemy bold. His beard sweeps 
the floor. He is old. He is hatred and lust. 

Soft creeps the night in the passages old — creeping along — 
creeping along. Soft creeps the wind in the old standing 
com. 

Into my body my enemy comes. Watch my fingers let go— 
slowr — oh, so slow. 



24 






SONG OF THEODORE 

my beloved — men and women — ^I come into your presence. 
It is night and I am alone and I come to yon. I open the 
window of my rocMn so that you may come in. I am a 
lover and I would touch you with the fingers of my hands. 
In my eyes a fire bums. The strength of my imaginings 
is beyond words to record. I see the loveliness in you* 
that is hidden away. I take something from you. See,^ 
I embrace you. I take you in my arms and I run away. ' 

1 am alone in my rocxn at night and in me is the spirit of 
the old priests. What cunning fingers I have. They 
make intricate designs on the white paper. See, the de- 
signs are words and sentences. I am not a priest but a 

, lover, a new kind of lover, one who is of the flesh and 
not of the flesh. My cunning fingers are of the flesh. 
They are like me and I would make love always, to all 
people — men and women — ^here — ^in Chicago— in America 
erywhere — ^always — ^forever — while my life lasts. 



I am afraid. Do you not understand, O my beloved, that 
I am afraid? In me is the old iiAeritance. The fires 
that bum have not burned me. I have not suffered 
enou^. 

Now, my beloved, I am not pure and I dare not come to 
you. I run away and hide. I am a priest and my head 
is not shaven. I sit in my ro(xn and my doors are bolted. 
I tremble and am afraid. 

as 



It is then that you come to me, O my beloved. Men and 
women you crowd in upon me. Through the walls and 
the bolted doors you ccHne crowding, hurrying. I was 
afraid and trembled, but I have become unafraid. 

I cannot tell how many things there are that I understand. 
I understand all, everything. The words of the men and 
women who have come in to me are without meaning, but 
the air of my room has brought health to me. 

I was determined to withdraw from the world, to be a priest 
with a shaven head. In fancy I saw myself go into the 
forest, into the dense silence. For days I lay like a stone 
in the midst of the silence. 



My body was bathed in a cold stream. Again and again 
my body was bathed. The cold water ran over my body 
and chilled the warm blood that runs beneath the surface 
of the skin. 

The inside of my body was made clean. My body was fed 
<Mi the white meat of nuts that fell from the trees. I 
crunched the nuts with my white teeth. How powerful 
my body had become. 

In the rain in the streets of my city I stood. My clothes 
were foul. In the woven cloth that covered my body the 
dust of my city had lodged. The dust of my civilization 
was in my soul. I was a murderer — 3, weeping prostitute 

26 



standing by a wall. I was a strong man with strong 
anns. In a jail they had lodged me. I was one con- 
demned to be hanged. There was filth on my shoes — 
my shoes were filthy. 

It was night and I had come into my room. I was cold and 
my body trembled. I was afraid. The pencil was 
gripped in my cunning fingers. Words came. Over the 
paper my pencil ran — ^making the words — saying the 
words. 

There is a song in the pencil that is held in my cunning 
fingers. Out — out — out — dear words. The words have 
saved me. There is rhythm in the pencil. It sings and 
swings. It sings a great song. It is singing the song of 
my life. It is bringing life in to me, into my close place. 

Out — out — out— out of the room I go. I am become pure. 
To the homes of the people I go. Here in these words 
I am become a man. The passions and lusts of men have 
taken hold of me. 

I have gone into the woman's chamber, into the secret places 
of all women and all men I have gone. I have made love 
to them. Before me in the chamber lies the naked body 
of a wcxnan. She is strong and yoimg. 

Do you not see, O my beloved, that I am become strong 
to caress the wcnnan! I caress all men and all women. 
I make myself naked. I am unafraid. I am a pure 
thing. I bind and heal. By the running of the pencil 

27 



over the white paper I have made myself pure. I have 
made myself whole. I am unafraid. The song of the 
pencil has done it. 

What cunning fingers I have. They make intricate designs 
on the white paper. My cimning fingers are of the flesh. 
They are like me and I would make love always — ^to all 
people — men and women — ^her6 — ^in Chicago — in America 
r— every where — ^always — forcver^=^while my life lasts. 



28 



mmaltSHkm 



■■ 



MANHATTAN 

From the place of the cornfields I went into the new places. 
I went into the city. How men laughed and put their 
hands into mine. 

To a high place overlooking the city I climbed. Men came 
running to me. On the stairways there was the endless 
threshing of numberless feet. The faces of women ap- 
peared. The soft lips of women were on my hands and 
my sinewy arms. Understanding came in to me. 

I am of the West, the long West of the sunsets. I am of the 
deep fields where the com grows. The sweat of apples 
is in me. I am the be^nning of things and the end of 
things. 

To me there came men whose hands were withered. My 
soldiers were small and their eyes were sunken. In them 
was the pain that sobs, the great pain that sobs. The 
sobbing of pain was like the threshing of feet on the 
stairways that went up from the city. 

In the morning I arose from my bed and was healed. To 
the cornfields I went laughing and singing. The men 
who are old have entered into me. As I stood on the 
hi^ place above the city they kissed me. The caress of 
those who are weary has come into the cornfields. 



29 



SPRING SONG 

In the forest, amid old trees and wet dead leaves, a shrine. 

Men on the wet leaves kneeling. 

The spirit of God in the air above a shrine. 

Now, America, you press your lips to mine. 
Feel on your lips the throbbing of my blood. 
Christ, come to life and life calling. 
Sweet and strong. 

Spring. God in the air above old fields. 

Farmers marking fields for the planting of the com. 

Fields marked for com to stand in long straight aisles. 

In the spring I press your body down oi\ wet cold new- 
plowed groimd. 
Men, ^ve your souls to me. 
I would have my sacred way with you. 

In the forest, amid old trees and wet dead leaves, a shrine. 

Men rising from the kneeling place to sing. 

Everywhere in the fields now the orderly planting of com. 



30 



INDUSTRIALISM 

In the long house of hate, 

In the long hours, 

In the never-ending day; 

Over the fields — ^her black hair flying— 

My mistress 

Terrible 

Gigantic 

Gaunt and drear. 

Fve got to die — ^youVe got to die. 

We do not fancy your thin hands. 

That reach and reach into the vase 

Where old things rust. 

Death to you — 

Now. 

Thin dream of beauty, 

lYou be gone. 

Our fathers in the village streets 

Had flowing beards and they believed. 

I saw them run into the night — 

Crushed. 

Old knowledge and all old beliefs 

By your hand killed — 

My mistress 

Grim. 

Awake and shake thy dusty locks. 
Come, drive the soldiers to their toil. 
A million men my mistress needs, 
31 



To kiss 
And kill 
For her desire, 

To-night — 
Arise. 

Out of tne vase the long thin hand. 
To grip the sword that men forget 
My mistress waits beside the mill 
To kiss the sword 
Of Christ 
Or you, 
Who dare 
For her. 



3^ 



SALVO 

Thin rift in time, 

A wedge of time, forever driven deep 'twixt days and nights, 

A moment only — all winds suspended and all day-dreams 

stopped. 
The clock upon the wall a dreary lie, 
Then death to that and me. 

By a chair a woman and a pair of eyesr— eyes luminous and 

sure. 
No word spoken. 

Love leaping, whispering, clamoring, crying. 
Love making time halt and creating me. 

Now my old city sees me pick my burden up. 

All sweet dreams fade. 

Words, musical and dear, will ne^er be spoken now. 

I follow plows that mark my furrows through the world. 

Now you watch me, brothers. 

Men and boys and new-made wives. 

Hear with glowing wonder the story of my ways. 

The burden f rcxn my back I pass to you. 

I go my way, unburdened and alone. 

Out of the West and East men came to look at me. 
Eyes gleamed in darkness and the world was pure. 
Grown old by wondrous looks and dreaming out of time 
I pass and do not come to life again. 



33 



THE PLANTING 

'Tis then I am the tiny thing, 

A little bug, a figure wondrous small, a sower on prairies 

limitless. 
Into her arms I creep and wait and dream that I may serve, 
And do the work of gods in that vast place. 

Awake — asleep— remade to serve, 

I stretch my arms and lie — intense— expectant — ^'til her 

moment comes. 
Then seeds leap forth. 
The mighty hills rise up and gods and tiny things like me 

proclaim their joy. 

Man in the making — seeds in the ground. 
O'er all my western country now a wind. 
Rich, milky smell of cornfields, dancing nymphs. 
And tiny men that turn away to dream. 



34 



SONG OF THE MIDDLE WORLD 

I want falling light and an evening sky, 

I want to sing my songs low crooning to the moon. 

I want men silent and the creeping grace of old gods in their 

hearts, 
I want night, soft darkness and damp smells 
When my songs sing. 

From the Allegheny Mountains where the mine fires flare, 

To the low hills of Nebraska where my farmers dwell. 

Let my songs sweep forth. 

Let gods listen and let men stand up. 

Let my songs sing. 

Great cradle-land of giants where my cornfields lie, 

Let me cradle my men. 

Let me cradle my men. 

Let the factories close and the voices die. 

Let me sing now. 

I have been to the Dakotas when the fields were plowed. 

I have stood by the Ohio when the dawn broke forth. 

Promise of com. 

Promise of com. 

Long aisles running into the dawn and beyond 

To the throne of gods. 

I want falling light and an evening sky, 

I want to sing my songs low crocming to the moon. 

I want to bring gods home to sweating men in com-rows and 

in shops 
When my songs sing. 
35 



THE STRANGER 

Her eyes are like the seeds of melons. Her breasts are thin 

and she walks awkwardly. I am in love with her. 
With her I have adventured into a new love. In all the 

world there is no such love as I have for her. 
I took hold of her shoulder and walked beside her. We 

went out of the city into the fields. By the still road we 

went and it was night. We were long alone together. 
The bones of her shoulder are thin. The sharp bone of her 

shoulder has left a mark on my hand. 
I am come up into the wind like a ship. Her thin hand is 

laid hold of me. My land where the com nods Jhas 

become my land. 
I am come up into the wind like a ship and the thin hand 

of woman is laid hold of me. 



36 



SONG OF THE LOVE OF WOMEN 

Have you nothing to oflFer but bread and your bodies—, 
Women, my women? 

Long nights I have lain by you, sleepless and thinking — 
Sisters, my sisters. 

In the doorway of the warehouse a tiny twisted body. 
Hark, the night is long. Let us talk. One! Two! Three! 
One! Two! Three! March! March away! 

Come to me, sisters, come home to the cornfields — ^ 
Long have I ached for you, body and brain. 
Have you nothing to offer but bread and your bodiesr— 
How long must I wait for you, sisters, in vain? 



%1 



SONG OF STEPHEN THE WESTERNER 

I am of the West — out of the land — out of the velvety 
creeping and straining. I have resolved. I have been 
bom like a wind. I came sweating and steaming out of 
the comrows. 

Deep in the com I lay — ^ages and ages — folded and broken 
— old and benumbed. My mother the black groimd 
suckled me. When I was strong I builded a house facing 
the east. The hair on my arm was like the long grass 
by the edge of the forests. 

Behold, I am one who has been building a house and driving 
nails with stones that break. The hammer of song has 
been given me. I am one with the old gods — an American 
from Dakota — from the deep valley of the Mississippi — 
from Illinois — from Iowa — from Ohio. 

Would you know what has befallen? 

In my warm ignorance I lay dead in the cora-rows. On the 

wind came rumors and cries. I squirmed and writhed. 

I was frightened and wept. My fathers emerged frcm 

the com and killed each other in battle. 

I am a man come into the city of men out of the mouth of 

the long house. Hear the wind in the caves of the hills ! 

My strength is terrible. I stand in the streets and shout. 

My children are as the dust of city streets for numbers. 

I am so small men do not see me. So tiny am I that I 

walk on the ball of your eye. 
38 



Saddle a horse — sweep away. 
Saddle a horse for liberty. 
Harry my men — harry my men. 
Broken ground for mine and me. 

In the long house at evening the old things were sweet. 
The nuts and the raisins lay deep on the tables. The 
women cut white bread with long knives. They hid the 
sweets of their bodies with clothes. They knew old things 
but had forgotten old singers. 

On the straw in the stables sat Enid the maker of harness. 
Beside him sat old men. Long we lay listening and 
listening. On their haimches they sat and talked of old 
gods. Above the soimd of the tramping of the hoofs of 
the horses arose always the voices of old men. 

Now, my beloved, I have fallen down from my horse. I 
have retumed to kill my beloved on the threshing floor. 
My throat is sore with the dust of new cities. The voices 
of new men shake the drums of my ears. I await long 
in the darkness the sweet voice of old things, but the new 
death has put its hand into mine. I have killed my 
beloved in die place of the deep straw and cast her away. 

Saddle a horse — sweep away. 
Breahneck speed to liberty. 
Harry my men — harry my men. 
Broken ground for mine and me. 

I am of the West— out of the land — out of the velvety 
creeping and straining. It is day and I stand raw and 
39 



J new by the coal-heaps. I go mto the place of darkness 
at the beginning of the new house. I shall build my 
house with great hammers. New song is tearing the cords 
of my throat. I am become a man covered with dust. 
I have kissed the black hands of new brothers and cannot 
retum to bury my beloved at the door of the long house. 



40 



SONG TO THE LOST ONES 

Soft thy feet on the floor of the desert. 

In the night — 

Running — 

Desperate and breathless. 

Blood on the sands of the desert drying; 
Drops of blood on the hot sand drying, 
Blood from the veins of my beloved 
Pouring out on the desert. 

Soft in the ni^t the rustle of com leaves 

Young men into the cities pouring, 

Blood from the veins of young men pouring into the cities. 



41 



FORGOTTEN SONG 

Always at the Idtchen door the gaunt wolf stands. 

Grey wolf — old wolf— evil and old — 

Keep ever thy hungry gleaming eyes, 

Thy fangs to kill, 

Thy heart of hate. 

Now my brother infallible, stay in the darkness there. 

Long, long ago, when days were new. 

Fresh bom of cornfields, undefiled, 

Man fou^t the wolf in open fi^t, 

Under the moon 

They fought at ni^t. 

Into his body the wolf-love, won in the darkness there. 

There is a tale men cannot tell. 
Tired wcrnien telling. 
Tired men telling, 

Echoes of tales through the halls of souls. 
Telling of ghosts by kitchen doors, dim in the darknes? 
there. 

Grey wolf lying in the snow, 
Lie low. 
Lie low. 

Soft lips clinging in the ni^t, 

God's challenge to all in the bitter ni^t, low in the dark- 
ness there. 

Far in men's minds the cry of wolves^ 
Old primal things and snow-clad hills, 
42 



In many hearts a challenge grim. 

Run with me. 

My lady fair, 

Rim with my wolf to-night. 

Always at the kitchen door the cold white face 
And cold white teeth of want and woe. 
Rim forever, lady fair. 
Track the grey wolf to his lair — 

A challenge to you in the bitter ni^t, loud in the darkness 
there. 

Alwa)rs by the kitchen door the gaunt wolf stands. 

Grey wolf — old wolf— evil and old — 

Keep ever thy hungry gleaming eyes. 

Thy fangs to kill. 

Thy heart of hate. 

Now my brother magnificent, stay in the darkness there. 



43 



AMERICAN SPRING SONG 

In the spring, when winds blew and farmers were plowing 

fields. 
It came into my mind to be glad because of my brutality. 

Along a street I went and over a bridge. 

I went through many streets in my city and over many 
bridges. 

Men and women I struck with my fists and my hands began 
to bleed. 

Under a bridge I crawled and stood trembling with joy 
At the river's edge. 

Because it was spring and soft sunlight came through the 
cracks of the bridge ' 

I tried to understand myself. 

Out of the mud at the river's edge I moulded myself a god, 
A grotesque little god with a twisted face, 
A god for myself and my men. 

You see now, brother, how it was. 

I was a man with clothes made by a Jewish tailor, 
Cimningly wrought clothes, made for a nameless one. 

I wore a white collar and some one had given me a jeweled 
pin 

44 



To wear at my throat. 

That amused and hurt me too. 

No (Mie knew that I knelt in the mud beneath the bridge 
In the city of Chicago. 

You see I am whispering my secret to you. 

I want you to believe in my insanity and to understand 
that I love God— ^ 

That's want I want. 

And then, you see, it was spring 

And soft sunli^t came through the cracks of the bridge. 

I had been long alone in a strange place where no gods came. 

Creep, men, and kiss the twisted face of my mud god. 

ril not hit you with my bleeding fists. 

Tm a twisted god myself. 

It is spring and love has come to me— » 
Love has come to me and to my men. 



45 



THE BEAM 

Eighteen men stood by me in my fall — ^long men — ^strcmg 
men — see the oil on their boots. 

I was a guest in the house of my people. Through the years 
I clung, taking hold of their hands in the darkness. It 
rained and the roar of machines was incessant. Into the 
house of my people quiet would not come. 

Eighteen men stood by me in my fall. Through their 
breasts bars were driven. With wailing and with weep- 
ing I ran back and forth. Then I died. Out of the door 
of the house of my people I ran. But the eighteen men 
stood by me in my fall. 



46 



SONG TO NEW SONG V 

Over my city Chicago a singer arises to sing. % v5f^ 

I greet thee, hoarse and terrible singer, half man, half bird, [ W 

strong, winged one. 
I see you float in cold bleak winds. 
Your wings burned by the fires of furnaces. 
In all your cries so little that is beautiful. 
Only the fact that you have risen out of the din and roar to 

float and wait and point the way to song. 

Back of your grim city, singer, the long flat fields. 

G)ra that stands up in orderly rows, full of purpose. 

As you float and wait, uttering your hoarse cries 

I see new beauties in the standing com, 

And dream of singers yet to come. 

When you and your rude kind, choked by the fury of your 

furnaces. 
Have fallen dead upon this coal heap here. 

Kneeling in prayer I shall forget you not, grim singer, 

Black bird, black against your black smoke-laden sky, 

Uttering your hoarse and terrible cries. 

The while you do strive to catch and understand 

The faint and long forgotten quality of song^ 

By never sweeter singers to be sung. 



47 



SONG FOR DARK NIGHTS 

His Imperial Majesty the Moon! 

Sweep down, O moon, past wind-swept towns and culti- 
vated fields, 
Past me and all my men that yeam and strive toward gods. 

Lying in deep grass my throat hurts and my body aches. i 

I am with child to dreams. 
Cities new-built and all the squirming, changing hoards of 
men 

Press down oil me. 
They press me deep into the ground. 

In the air above my head men wriggle into life, 

The male milk in my breast begins to stir. 
Into my body out of many prairies wide 

Come roots of thought. 

Since gods and peoples stood defying time. 

Since men, like little dogs, have bayed die moon. 

Since hard-limbed stags have raced into the dawn, 
I have been here, time serving for my gods. 

In the deep ground roots and seeds. 

In my breast seeds growing, 
ril not flame to life and cry for joy. 

My spirit breathes its story of decay. 



48 



THE LOVER 

All night she walked and dreamed cm the frozen road, 
She the insane one, feeling not thinking. 
All night she walked and wanted to £ill, 
Wanted to love and kill. 

What did she want? 

Nobody knew. 

None of us knew why she wanted 

To kill. 

We were the heavy ones, heavy and sure. 
The wind in the cornfields moved us not. 
We the Americans, worthy and sure, 
Worthy and siwe of ourselves. 

Tom killed his brother on Wednesday night. 
Back of the comcrib, under the hill. 
Then she ran to him, sobbing and calling, 
She who had loved and could not kill. 



49 



NIGHT WHISPERS 

Just midni^t quiet and a simdered cloud, — mother I live — 
Aching and waiting to work my way throu^. 

You of the long and the gaimt — silent and grim you stood. 
Terribly sweet die touch of your hand — mother, reach down. 

Grey the walls and long the waiting — ^grey the age dust on 

the floor. 
If they whip and beat us, little mother, need we care? 



so 



SONG TO THE SAP 

In my breast the sap of spring, 
In my brain grey winter, bleak and hard, 
Throng my whole being, surging strong and sur^ 
The c^l of gods^ .•. *: 

The forward push of mystery and of life. . ';•:. • 

Men, sweaty men, who walk on frozea>9ids, 

Or stand and listen by the factory doof,-- 

Look up, men ! 

Stand hard! • • * 

On winds the gods sweep down. " 

In denser shadows by the factory walls. 

In my old cornfields, broken where the cattie roam. 

The shadow of the face of God falls down. 

From all of Mid-America a prayer. 

To newer, braver gods, to dawns and days, 

To truth and cleaner, braver life we come. 

Lift up a song. 

My sweaty men. 

Lift up a song. 



51 



.RHYTHMS 

SiSig low my soul — • 

To Ceaf and bite 

Is but thf madness of the beast 

Blow on-th'j^ wrath. 

Burst not thy bands, 

Be quiet, ./ ^ 

Wait until thy mtHacnt comes. 

Sweet in their meaniiig-bte^ the allied winds. 

Now all the tiny muscled, play the tune. 

Man, strike to kill. 

Rise now to sing, 

Now throw the shaft against the wall of time. 

Deep in my old valley lies the naked man. 

He is a seed. 

Seeds sleep in him. 

My man shall be the father of a tribe, a race. 

He is the world and all the world has been asleep in him. 



52 



UNBORN 

Swift across the ni^t a little cry. 
Against the cold white night a stain of red. 
The moon dips down. 
The dull winds blow. 
My unborn son is dead. 



53 



NIGHT 

Ni^t. 

We creep throu^ darkness 'neath a ratten wall 
Weighing a million terns. 
In the darkness, silence and a woman's cry. 
Black ni^ti 

The longest, blackest, ni^t of all our lives. 
Dear France- 
Put out your hand to us. 



54 



A VISIT 

Westward the field of the cloth of gold. 

It is fall — see the gold in the dust of the fields. 

Lay the golden cloth upon me. It is night and I come 
through the streets to your window. 

The dust and the words are all gone, brushed away. Let 
me sleep. 



55 



CHANT TO DAWN IN A FACTORY TOWN 

In the ground, 
Below the great buildings, 

Below the running of waters and the threshing of feet-T=» 
Deep- 
Buried away — 
Long forgotten, 
The spirits of strong men. 

I hail thecy O love! 

In the soft night I have touched the bodies of men, 
I have touched with rough fingers the lips of wranen, 
I have become with child to all men, 
I, master of life, embrace all men. 

I hail thee^ O love! 

Now, my beloved, the time has come to bury you in the 

black ground at the field's edge. 
I am glad. 

In my breast gladness is singing. 
Now the great engines roar and thrust out. 
The unconquerable one goes through the ground to my 

desire. 
In the long night. 
In the long day. 
Below and above. 
New song, come to life. 

Behold! 

Song is consuming the terrible engine of life. 

56 



I greet thee^ love. 

In the fields 

Seeds on the air floating. 

In the towns 

Black smoke for a shroud. 

In my breast 

Understanding awake. 

In my breast the growth of ag^. 

In my breast the growth of ages, 

At the field's edge. 

By the town's edge. 

In my breast the growth of ages. 

My beloved. 

White, like the lips of the dead Christ, 

Far below. 

In the black ground, 

I hail thee, O love! 
I hail thee, O love! 

In my breast the growth of ages. 
In my breast the growth of ages. 



57 



SONG FOR LONELY ROADS 

Now let us understand each other, love. 
Long time ago I crept off homt^ 
To my own gods I went. 

The tale is old, 

It has been told 

By many men in many lands. 

TTie lands belong to those who tell. 

Now surely that is clear. 

After the plow had westward swept. 

The gods bestowed the com to stand. 

Long, long it stood. 

Strong, strong it grew. 

To make a forest for new song. 

Deep in the com the bargain hard 

Youth with the gods drove home. 

The gods remember. 

Youth forgets. 

Doubt not the soul of song that waits. 

The singer dies. 

The singer lives, 

The gods wait in the com. 

The soul of song is in the land. 

Lift up your lips to that. 



60 



SONG LONG AFTER 

Was that all you could do. Woman — Gloving and giving? 

You went pretty far — ^I admire you for that. Do you re- 
member the night in the upper room, when he cried? He 
needed you then — God knows he needed you then. 

Down below the others were waiting — ^Judas and Peter and 
John— old men — mighty wise. He was crucified for 
them. At night when the stars came he went out alone 
— ^long after that. 

How did you know what you did know, Wraian? That 

puzzles me. 
How could you go that far and stopH 

Was that all you could do, Woman^ — Gloving and giving? 



6r 



* 



SONG OF THE SOUL OF CHICAGO 

On the bridges, on the bridges — swooping and rising, whirl- 
ing and circling — ^back to the bridges, always the bridges. 



ril talk forever — ^I'm damned if Til sing. Don't you see 
that mine is not a singing people? We're just a lot of 
muddy things caught up by the stream. You can't fool 
us. Don't we know ourselves? 

Here we are, out here in Chicago. You think we're not 
humble? You're a liar. We are like the sewerage of our 
town, swept up stream by a kind of mechanical triimiph 
— that's what we are. 

On the bridges, on the bridges — wagons and motors, horses 
and men — ^not flying, just tearing along and swearing. 

By God we'll love each other or die trying. We'll get to 
imderstanding too. In some grim way our own song shall 
work through. 

We'll stay down in the muddy depths of our stream — ^we 
will. There can't any poet come out here and sit on the 
sha^ rail of our ugly bridges and sing us into paradise. 

We're finding out — ^that's what I want to say. We'll get 
at our own thing out here or die for it. We're going 
down, numberless thousands of us, into ugly oblivion. 
We blow that. 

6a 



But say, bards, you keep oflF our bridges. Keep out of our 
dreams, dreamers. We want to give this democracy thing 
they talk so big about a whirl. We want to see if we 
are any good out here, we Americans from all over hell. 
That's what we want. 



63 



SONG OF THE DRUNKEN BUSINESS MAN 

Don't try, little one, to keep hold of me, 
Go luHne ! There's a place for you by the fire. 
Age is waiting to welcome you diere. 
Go home and sit by the fire. 

Into the naked street I ran. 
Roaring and bellowing like a cow. 
Shaking the walls of die houses down. 
Proclaiming my dream of black desire. 

If there's a thing in this world that's ^xxl it's guts. 
I'm a blackbird hovering over the land. 
Gro on home ! Let me ^one. 

Do you know, little dove, I admire your lips — 
They're so red. 

What are you doing out in the street? 
Take my arm! Look at me! 

Ah, you be gone. I'm sixty-five years old to-ni^t. 
Now what's the use of beginning again? 



64 



SONG TO THE LAUGH 

All night we lay in the cold and the rain in the midst of the 

laughter, 
The laughter of weaklings, 
The laughter of women. 
The laughter of those who were strcHig. 

At the end of the lane we lay, beyond the roar and the 
rattle. 

Hark! In the silence the lau^ter! 

Stnmg men creeping, 

Old men creeping, 

Old men and children, creeping and creeping — 

Far away in the darkness. 

Edward, my son, 
Thomas, my man. 

Why do you creep all night in the darkness? 
Why do you creep and wait to strike at night in the dark- 
ness? 

Nine! Ten! Twelve! 
Nine! Ten! Twelve! 

Take the knife from the shield and strike in the darkness. 
Strike, man! Strike! 

All night we lay in the cold and wet at the edge of the 

darkness. 
65 



Trembling with fear we prepared to welcome the knife 

thrust. 
Then we kissed and our bodies caressed. 
We prepared, my beloved, to add our voices to those of the 

others. 
In the cold and wet we crept and laughed in the darkness. 



66 



HOSANNA 

The cornfields shall be the mothers of men. They are rich 
with the milk that shall suckle men. The bearded men 
shall arise. They shall come sturdy and strong out of the 
West. 

• 

[You may prick the new men with spears. Their blood shall 
run out on the snow but they, are my men and shall 
survive. 

I am a child and I weep. My hand^ are red and cold. 
I run along and blow upon them. 

In me is the blood of the strong men. A little I have 

endured and shall endure. I am of the blood of strong J 

bearded men. The milk of the com is in me. J 

I 

Sweet, sweet, the thought of the new men. I am cold and 1 

run throu^ the streets of Chicago. I blow upon my red ' 

hands. Sweet, sweet the thought of the new men. ] 



67 



WAR 

L<Mig lanes of fire, dead cornstalks burning, 
Run now — ^head downward — plunging and crying, 
Hold hard the breath now. 
Forward we run. 

Out of Nebraska, on into Kansas, now the word runs, 
Runs with the wind, runs with the news of war, crying and 

screaming. 
Now the word runs. 

Out on low ridges, black 'gainst the night sky; 
Farmer boys running, factory boys nmning; 
Boys from Ohio 
And my Illinois. 

Questions and answers, over the land. 
Questions that hurt, answers that hurt. 
Questions of courage • 
That cannot but hurt. 

Deep in the cornfields the gods come to life, 
Gods that have waited, god^ that we knew not. 
Grods come to life 
In America now. 



68 



MID-AMERICAN PRAYER 

I sang there — ^I dreamed there — ^I was suckled face down- 
ward in the black earth of my western comland. 

I remember as though it were yesterday how I first began 
to stand up. 

All about me the com — ^in the night the fields mysterious 
and vast — ^voices of Indians — ^names remembered — ^mur- 
murings of winds — the secret mutterings of my own 
young boyhood and manhood. 

The men and women among whan I lived destroyed my 
ability to pray. The sons of New Englanders, who 
brought books and smart sayings into our Mid-America, 
destroyed the faith in me that came out of the groimd. 

But in my own way I crept out beyond that. I did pray — 
in the night by a strip of broken rail fence — ^in the rain — 
walking alone in meadows — ^in the hundred secret places 
that youth knows I tried to find the way to gods. Now 
you see how confusing life is. 

There were my cornfields that I loved — ^what whisperings 
there — ^what daring dreams — ^what deep hopes — ^what 
memories of true old sava^s, Indians striving toward 
gods, dancing and fighting and praying while diey said 
big words — medicine words. 

And all this in the long cornfields. 

And then in the fall the crackling of comleaves, the smells, 
sights and soimds. 

The com stood up like armies in the shocks. 

When I was a boy I went into the cornfields at night. I 
said words I had not dared to say to people, defying the 
69 



New Englanders' gods, trying to find honest, mid-western 

American gods. 
And all the time the fields spread west and west. An 

empire was building. 
Towns grew up, factories multiplied. 
You see the com had come into its own but that destroyed 

too. 
I and my men stood up but we grew fat. We lived in 

houses in cities and we forgot the fields and the praying 

— ^the lurking sounds, sights, smells of old things. ' 
Now I am ashamed and many of my men are ashamed. 
I cannot tell how deep my shame lies. 
^^ I walk in the streets seeing my own well-clad body and my 

fat hands with shame. 

I am thinking of lean men fitting in many places over the 
world. I am thinking of the voices of my own gpds for- 
gotten in the fields. 

And now at last after my long fatness I begin to get the dd 
whisperings. 

I go along here in Chicago praying and saying words. Npt 
the shouting and the waving of flags but something else 
creeps into me. 

You see, dear brothers of the world, I dream of new and 
more subtile loves for me and my men. 

My mind leaps forward and I think of the time when our 
hands, no longer fat, may touch even the lean dear hands 
of France, when we also have suffered and got back to 
prayer. 

Conceive if you will the mightiness of that dream, that these 
fields and places, out here west of Pittsburgh, may be- 
70 



come sacred places^ that because of this terrible thing, of 
which we may now become a part, there is hope of hard- 
ness and leanness — that we may get to lives of which we 
may be unashamed. 

Above the old half-lost shadows, that lurk over our corn- 
fields, now S(Mnething more than Indians that dance in 
the moonli^t. 

Now older, older things — bearded Slavs dreaming far back, 
stout Englishmen marching under Cromwell, Franks and 
CeltS) presently Scandinavians too. 

These to our cornfields, the old dreams and prayers and 
thoughts of these men sweetening our broad land and get- 
ting even into our shops and into the shadows that lurk 
by our factory doors. 

It is the time of the opening of doors. 

No talk now of what we can do for the old world. 

Talk and dream now of what the old world can bring to us 
— ^the true sense of real suffering out of which may ccnne 
the sweeter brotherhood. 

God, lead us to the fields now. Suns for us and rains for 

y us and a prayer for every growing thing, 
^^^^ay our fields become our sacred places. 

May we have coura^ to choke with our man's hate him who 
would profit by the suffering of the world. 

May we strip ourself clean and go hungry that after this 
terrible storm has passed our sacred fields may feed Ger- 
man, Jew and Japanese. 

May the sound of enmity die in the groaning of growing 
things in our fields. 

71 



May we get to gods and the greater brotherhood thioi]^ 
growth springing out of the destruction of men. 

For all of Mid-America the greater prayer and the burth of 
humbleness. 



73 



WE ENTER IN 

Now you sec, brothers, here in the West, here's how it is— 

We stand and fall, we hesitate — • 

It is all new to us. 

To kill, to take a fellow's life. 

Uh! — a nauseous fever takes the ligjht away. 

Now we stand up and enter in. 
The baseness of the deed we too embrace. 
We go in dumbly — ^into that dark place. 
The germ of deadi we take into our veins. 

Do we not know that we ourselves have failed? 

Our valleys wide, our long green fields 

We have bectrewn with our own dead. 

In shop and mart we have befouled our souls. 

Our com is withered and our faces black 

With smoke of hate. 

We make the gesture and we go to die. 

Had we been true to our own land our sweetness then had 

quite remade the world. 
We now are true to failure grim — 
We go in prayer to die. 

To our own souls we take the killer's sin. 
Into the waters black our souls we fling. 
We take the chances of the broader dream* 
Not ours but all the worlds — our fields. 
We enter in. 



73 






DIRGE OF WAR 

It begins with little creeping pains that run across the breast. 
Grood-bye, brother. I see your arm is withered and your 
Itists are dead. I did not think the end would comt so 
soon. It has — ^good-bye. 

In the ni^t we remembered to believe in hell. Wide we 
threw die window to behold the fog. Men stumbled in 
the darkness — a cry arose — ^then came war. 

Now, brother — ^let's ponder — ^say we draw apart. Woman 
come to fatherhood and the world upset. My little 
naked soldiers are playing on the floor. I strike and bid 
you go. If you go, all is gone. 

There is a thing you must do — ^let's get back to that. 
You must strike out alone, get out of this room. You 
must go upon your journey. Don't stay here — now be 
gMie — good-bye. 

The gray and purple lesson of the night comes on. What 
we dare not face must now come home to us. Hear the 
guns — dull — ^in the ni^t. 

Back of us our fathers — ^let that go. Don't ccmfuse us 
here — alcme — ^with memories that can't stand — ^and run 
— ^in our night. I'll tell you what I want — ^be still. | 

I want to creep and creep and lie face downward on the rim 
of hell. I want your breathing body to be torn from me. 
I want hell and guns to be stilled by the aching thrust of 

74 



flcw things into life. I want death perfect and new love 
achieved. I want much. 

Believe it or not I actually did run in the dusty hallways of 
my own life before this began. I went into the long 
empty halls, breathed the stale dust of all old things. 

I knew and yet I did not know. That's what I want to 
say — ^by song and by the jarring note of song that cannot 
sing. 

I was coming with America — dreaming with America — dop- 
ing with America — ^then war came. 

I'm an aching old thing and the dream come true. I am 
sick with my last sickness here alone. I am creeping, 
creeping, creeping — in the night — ^in the halls. I am 
deadi — ^I am war — ^I am hate. 

And that's all, brother. I dare not hope. The childishness 
has left me. I am dead. Over die fields a shriek — ^a 
cry. I pay my fare to hell — ^I die — ^I die. 



75 



LITTLE SONG TO A WESTERN STATESMAN 

Well, I'm for you, little worm, 

Coming to the surface of the groimd on warm, wet days, 

Digging deep down when it is dry and cold — 

Who elected you to serve in the United States Senate, eh? 

Say, you are funny in that black frock coat, 

Fimny as me, with my fat cheeks and brown woven coat too. 

Where'd we get our clothes? 

Who made them for us? 

You must get serious, now and then. 

In the night when it is dark and wild winds blow. 

I do. I weep and pray and have big thoughts. 

That's what makes life seem so strange and unbelievable 

tome. 
You imderstand, eh? 



76 



SONG OF THE BUG 

Now I sing to you the song of my kind that you do not 

understand, 
I, the tiny thing, swift dancing oa a beam of light. 
A fillip for your understanding! 

On I go in my own way doing my own work. 

Biting the tender legs of other little bugs. 

Spraying my spermatozoa on the warm ovaries of female 

bugs. 
Undermining the walls of tall man-made towers. 

There is a certain dignity in my life if you could but under- 
stand it. 
You great bug that keep thinking such almi^ty thou^ts. 
Hark to the little song of my kind. 
It would be well for you if you could understand that. 



77 



ASSURANCE 

I have heard gods whispering in the com and wind; 
In my crude times when thoughts leaped forth. 
Conquering, destroying, serving steel and iron, 
I have run back to gods, to prayers and dreams. 
I have dreamed much and have remembered dreams. 

Now in this room, a face stands forth, 

A narrow face, with many shadows hid 'twixt brow and 

chin. 
The face half turns, 
It tells its tale to me. 
Now down the drumming way of time it goes and leaves me 

shaken here. 

Now woman and tall man. 

My little brother who has passed my way. 

Bestow a kiss on me. 

Turn quick thy face, let what is old grow new. 

Strike in the darkness at the horrid lie. 

Lau^ now and pass along. 

I remember you forever for a monent's love. 

I pass to you the message in the long relay. 

Are you brave — do you dare — ^will you try? 

See, I take the death that came into the room to you. 

A face remembered, a desire forgot, 

A word caught drifting in the IcMig detour, 

78 



A caress to you, a swift hail to you. 
Forget — remember — dare to cling to me* 
Now wait you in the darkness 
Till the moment comes^i 



79 



^ ~ 



REMINISCENT SONG 

Now you arc dear to me, 

Now my beloved. 

You are the one that I did not take. 

Even then, 

When my body was young, 

When the sweetness of you made me drunk, 

You are the one that I did not take. 

All that is old came into me. 

That ni^t by the bush and the stairs in the dark 

Yours were the lips I did not kiss, 

Yours the love that 1 kept. 

Long and long I have walked alone. 
Past the cornfields and over the bridge 
Sucking the sweetness out of ni^ts, 
Dreaming things that have made mc old 
And young. 
Since that night. 

Faring away down a lonely road 
Now you must go, my beloved, 
Thinlang your thou^ts in the bitter ni^ts^; 
[You that I loved and did not take. 



80 



EVENING SONG 

Back of Oiicago the open fields — ^were you ever there? 
Trains coming toward you out of the West — 
Streaks of light on the long grey plains? — many a song- 
Aching to sing. 

Pve got a grey ana ragged brother in my breast — 
That's a fact. 

Back of Chicago the open fields — ^were you ever there? 
Trains going from you into the West — 
Clouds of dust on the long grey plains. 
Long trains go West, too— in the silence 
Alwajrs the song- 
Waiting to sing. 



8i 



SONG OF THE SINGER 

Drunken and staggering — 

Saying all profane things — 

Kissing your hands to Ac gods — 

In the night praying and whimpering-^ 

Aching to sing and not singing — 

You— 

My brother. 

Beating upon it with fists — 

Trying to shake it oflF — 

Hoping and dreaming you will emerge — 

My sister. 

I wrap my arms about you that hunger. 

In the long hair of my breast there is warmth. 

I look far into the future beyond the noise and the clatter. 

I will not be crushed by the iron machine. 

Sing. 

Dare to sing. 

Kiss the mouth of song with your lips. 

In the morning and in the evening 

Trust to the terrible strength of indomitable song. 



82 



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