Reading Sandburg at the Beach
by Alinda Dickinson Wasner
Suddenly he looks so young
Now that I’m almost as old
as he was
when he was in vogue.
Perhaps it’s 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 god’s sake he was my
And I doubt they read him
Or discussed 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
In all that blood day after day
In the slaughterhouse, I doubt he
Took out his volume of Sandburg
For bedtime reading,
Or that Aunt Laura, strong woman
In her own right, ever had a chance
To read his works by lamplight
To her dying patients
We may never know.
But they could have identified
The bugs in the lily and the magnolia
Would have recognized themselves
In the 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.