• Carl Sandburg Home and Barn

    Carl Sandburg Home

    National Historic Site North Carolina

Child Labor

Selections from Chicago Poems by Carl Sandburg.

They Will Say
Of my city the worst that men will ever say is this:
You took little children away from the sun and the dew,
And the glimmers that played in the grass under the great sky,
And the reckless rain; you put them between walls
To work, broken and smothered, for bread and wages,
To eat dust in their throats and die empty-hearted
For a little handful of pay on a few Saturday nights.

Mill-Doors
You never come back.
I say good-by when I see you going in the doors,
The hopeless open doors that call and wait
And take you then for – how many cents a day?
How many cents for the sleepy eyes and fingers?

I say good-by because I know they tap your wrists,
In the dark, in the silence, day by day
And all the blood of you drop by drop,
And you are old before you are young.
You never come back.

Child of the Romans
The dago shovelman sits by the railroad track
Eating a noon meal of bread and bologna.
A train whirls by, and men and women at tables
Alive with red roses and yellow jonquils,
Eat steaks running with brown gravy,
Strawberries and cream, éclairs and coffee.
The dago shovelman finishes the dry bread and bologna, Washes it down with a dipper from the water-boy,
And goes back to the second half of ten-hour day’s work
Keeping the road-bed so the roses and jonquils
Shake hardly at all in the cut glass vases
Standing slender on the tables in the dining cars.

Anna Imroth
Cross the hands over the breast here – so.
Straighten the leg a little more – so.
And call for the wagon to come and take her home.
Her mother will cry some and so will her sisters and brothers.
But all of the others got down and they are safe and this is the only
One of the factory girls who wasn’t lucky in making the jump
When the fire broke
It is the hand of God and the lack of fire escapes.

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