Reading Sandburg at the Beach

by Alinda Dickinson Wasner

Suddenly he looks so young

Now that Im almost as old 

as he was

when he was in vogue.

Perhaps its better this way.

Would I have cared so much

About unions when I was

In tenth grade

Or read any but the Chicago poems?

Those and the cornhuskers

And the smoke and steel

Are the ones that

Always get anthologized,

That teachers have to teach.

For gods sake he was my

Grandparents contemporary

And I doubt they read him

Odiscussed him

Or realized he was writing about them

For they were out there husking corn,

Riding the rails in search of work

Not wanting much to have

Anything to do with cities, especially

The windy one

But what choice did they have?

When Uncle Lamereaux

Wrote home about having to stand

Iall that blood day after day

Ithe slaughterhouse, I doubt he

Took out his volume of Sandburg

For bedtime reading,

Or that Aunt Laura, strong woman

Iher own right, ever had a chance

Tread his works by lamplight

Ther dying patients

Wmay never know.

But they could have identified

The bugs in the lily and the magnolia

Would have recognized themselves

Ithe splinters of the first frost

And in the fiery heat of the big furnace

And they would have had him home

For Sunday dinner, to sit on the porch

And ask him questions over pie

Had they known about him.

Had they heard his name, these people, yes.