by 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.

Monadnock Valley Press > Sandburg