Box cars run by a mile long.
And I wonder what they say to each other
When they stop a mile long on a sidetrack.
Maybe their chatter goes:
I came from Fargo with a load of wheat up to the danger line.
I came from Omaha with a load of shorthorns and they splintered my boards.
I came from Detroit heavy with a load of fivers.
I carried apples from the Hood river last year and this year bunches of bananas from Florida; they look for me with watermelons from Mississippi next year.
Hammers and shovels of work gangs sleep in shop corners
when the dark stars come on the sky and the night watchmen walk and look.
Then the hammer heads talk to the handles,
then the scoops of the shovels talk,
how the day’s work nicked and trimmed them,
how they swung and lifted all day,
how the hands of the work gangs smelled of hope.
In the night of the dark stars
when the curve of the sky is a work gang handle,
in the night on the mile long sidetracks,
in the night where the hammers and shovels sleep in corners,
the night watchmen stuff their pipes with dreams—
and sometimes they doze and don’t care for nothin’,
and sometimes they search their heads for meanings, stories, stars.
The stuff of it runs like this:
A long way we come; a long way to go; long rests and long deep sniffs for our lungs on the way.
Sleep is a belonging of all; even if all songs are old songs and the singing heart is snuffed out like a switchman’s lantern with the oil gone, even if we forget our names and houses in the finish, the secret of sleep is left us, sleep belongs to all, sleep is the first and last and best of all.
People singing; people with song mouths connecting with song hearts; people who must sing or die; people whose song hearts break if there is no song mouth; these are my people.
Read this poem in other languages
This poem has not been translated into any other language yet.
Comments about this poem (Work Gangs by Carl Sandburg )
- Silent Voices - Heartbroken Sounds, RoseAnn V. Shawiak
- Stumble And Fall, Maurice Rowlands
- Love others, gajanan mishra
- Thoughts of Perfection, michael walkerjohn
- Coffee & cream, Mark Heathcote
- An African Woman Unfolds, michael walkerjohn
- The Daughter of the Earth - 43, gajanan mishra
- Prove your presence, hasmukh amathalal
- Do Early Birds Really Catch the Worm?, Dr John Celes
- I Did It Well, Vera Sidhwa
Poem of the Day
- The Road Not Taken, Robert Frost
- Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night, Dylan Thomas
- Annabel Lee, Edgar Allan Poe
- I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou
- Home And Love, Robert William Service
- Dreams, Langston Hughes
- Invictus, William Ernest Henley
- I Go Back to May 1937, Sharon Olds
- Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, Robert Frost
- Still I Rise, Maya Angelou
(March 26, 1874 – January 29, 1963)
(1 February 1902 – 22 May 1967)
(12 July 1904 – 23 September 1973)
(4 April 1928 - 28 May 2014)
Mewlana Jalaluddin Rumi
(1207 - 1273)
(31 May 1819 - 26 March 1892)
(27 October 1914 – 9 November 1953)
- Heather Burns
Edgar Allan Poe
(19 January 1809 - 7 October 1849)
(November 19, 1942)