Carl Sandburg

Here you will find the Long Poem Skyscraper of poet Carl Sandburg


By day the skyscraper looms in the smoke and sun and
 has a soul.
Prairie and valley, streets of the city, pour people into
 it and they mingle among its twenty floors and are
 poured out again back to the streets, prairies and
It is the men and women, boys and girls so poured in and
 out all day that give the building a soul of dreams
 and thoughts and memories.
(Dumped in the sea or fixed in a desert, who would care
 for the building or speak its name or ask a policeman
 the way to it?)

Elevators slide on their cables and tubes catch letters and
 parcels and iron pipes carry gas and water in and
 sewage out.
Wires climb with secrets, carry light and carry words,
 and tell terrors and profits and loves--curses of men
 grappling plans of business and questions of women
 in plots of love.

Hour by hour the caissons reach down to the rock of the
 earth and hold the building to a turning planet.
Hour by hour the girders play as ribs and reach out and
 hold together the stone walls and floors.

Hour by hour the hand of the mason and the stuff of the
 mortar clinch the pieces and parts to the shape an
 architect voted.
Hour by hour the sun and the rain, the air and the rust,
 and the press of time running into centuries, play
 on the building inside and out and use it.

Men who sunk the pilings and mixed the mortar are laid
 in graves where the wind whistles a wild song
 without words
And so are men who strung the wires and fixed the pipes
 and tubes and those who saw it rise floor by floor.
Souls of them all are here, even the hod carrier begging
 at back doors hundreds of miles away and the brick-
 layer who went to state's prison for shooting another
 man while drunk.
(One man fell from a girder and broke his neck at the
 end of a straight plunge--he is here--his soul has
 gone into the stones of the building.)

On the office doors from tier to tier--hundreds of names
 and each name standing for a face written across
 with a dead child, a passionate lover, a driving
 ambition for a million dollar business or a lobster's
 ease of life.

Behind the signs on the doors they work and the walls
 tell nothing from room to room.
Ten-dollar-a-week stenographers take letters from
 corporation officers, lawyers, efficiency engineers,
 and tons of letters go bundled from the building to all
 ends of the earth.
Smiles and tears of each office girl go into the soul of
 the building just the same as the master-men who
 rule the building.

Hands of clocks turn to noon hours and each floor
 empties its men and women who go away and eat
 and come back to work.
Toward the end of the afternoon all work slackens and
 all jobs go slower as the people feel day closing on
One by one the floors are emptied. . . The uniformed
 elevator men are gone. Pails clang. . . Scrubbers
 work, talking in foreign tongues. Broom and water
 and mop clean from the floors human dust and spit,
 and machine grime of the day.
Spelled in electric fire on the roof are words telling
 miles of houses and people where to buy a thing for
 money. The sign speaks till midnight.

Darkness on the hallways. Voices echo. Silence
 holds. . . Watchmen walk slow from floor to floor
 and try the doors. Revolvers bulge from their hip
 pockets. . . Steel safes stand in corners. Money
 is stacked in them.
A young watchman leans at a window and sees the lights
 of barges butting their way across a harbor, nets of
 red and white lanterns in a railroad yard, and a span
 of glooms splashed with lines of white and blurs of
 crosses and clusters over the sleeping city.
By night the skyscraper looms in the smoke and the stars
 and has a soul.