Government

Original Text: 
Carl Sandburg, Chicago Poems (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1916), pp. 173-74. PS 3537 A618C5 1916 Robarts Library.
1THE Government--I heard about the Government and
2     I went out to find it. I said I would look closely at
3     it when I saw it.
5     the callaboose. It was the Government in action.
7     and talk with a judge. Later in the day the judge
8     dismissed a case against a pickpocket who was a
9     live ward worker for the alderman. Again I saw
10     this was the Government, doing things.
11I saw militiamen level their rifles at a crowd of work-
12     ingmen who were trying to get other workingmen
13     to stay away from a shop where there was a strike
14     on. Government in action.
15Everywhere I saw that Government is a thing made of
16     men, that Government has blood and bones, it is
17     many mouths whispering into many ears, sending
18     telegrams, aiming rifles, writing orders, saying
19     "yes" and "no."
20Government dies as the men who form it die and are laid
21     away in their graves and the new Government that
22     comes after is human, made of heartbeats of blood,
23     ambitions, lusts, and money running through it all,
24     money paid and money taken, and money covered
25     up and spoken of with hushed voices.
26A Government is just as secret and mysterious and sensi-
27     tive as any human sinner carrying a load of germs,
28     traditions and corpuscles handed down from
29     fathers and mothers away back.

Notes

4] callaboose: jail (originally slangy New Orleans term). Back to Line
6] ward alderman: elected representative to city council for a given electoral district. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
1916
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
RPO 1998.
Form: