Nonfiction > Upton Sinclair, ed. > The Cry for Justice

Upton Sinclair, ed. (1878–1968).
The Cry for Justice: An Anthology of the Literature of Social Protest.  1915.
Mill Children
(From “Processionals”)

By John Curtis Underwood

(American poet, born 1874)
WE have forgotten how to sing: our laughter is a godless thing: listless and loud and shrill and sly.
We have forgotten how to smile. Our lips, our voices too are vile. We are all dead before we die.
Our mothers’ mothers made us so: the father that we never know in blindness and in wantonness
Caused us to come to question you. What is it that you others do, that profit so by our distress?
You and your children softly sleep. We and our mothers vigil keep. You cheated us of all delight,        5
Ere our sick spirits came to birth: you made our fair and fruitful earth a nest of pestilence and blight.
Your black machines are never still, and hard, relentless as your will, they card us like the cotton waste.
And flesh and blood more cheap than they, they seize and eat and shred away, to feed the fever of your haste.
For we are waste and shoddy here, who know no God, no faith but fear, no happiness, no hope but sleep.
Half imbecile and half obscene we sit and tend each tense machine, too sick to sigh, too tired to weep,        10
Until the tortured end of day, when fevered faces turn away, to see the stars from blackness leap.

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