Verse > Carl Sandburg > Chicago Poems
Carl Sandburg (1878–1967).  Chicago Poems.  1916.
67. Killers
  I AM singing to you
Soft as a man with a dead child speaks;
Hard as a man in handcuffs,
Held where he cannot move:
  Under the sun        5
Are sixteen million men,
Chosen for shining teeth,
Sharp eyes, hard legs,
And a running of young warm blood in their wrists.
  And a red juice runs on the green grass;        10
And a red juice soaks the dark soil.
And the sixteen million are killing … and killing and killing.
  I never forget them day or night:
They beat on my head for memory of them;
They pound on my heart and I cry back to them,        15
To their homes and women, dreams and games.
  I wake in the night and smell the trenches,
And hear the low stir of sleepers in lines—
Sixteen million sleepers and pickets in the dark:
Some of them long sleepers for always,        20
Some of them tumbling to sleep to-morrow for always,
Fixed in the drag of the world’s heartbreak,
Eating and drinking, toiling … on a long job of killing.
  Sixteen million men.


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