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Aztec Mask

by Carl Sandburg, 1913

I wanted a man’s face looking into the jaws and throat of life
 With something proud on his face, so proud no smash of the jaws,
 No gulp of the throat leaves the face in the end
 With anything else than the old proud look:
         Even to the finish, dumped in the dust,
         Lost among the used-up cinders,
         This face, men would say, is a flash,
         Is laid on bones taken from the ribs of the earth,
         Ready for the hammers of changing, changing years,
         Ready for the sleeping, sleeping years of silence.
         Ready for the dust and fire and wind.
 I wanted this face and I saw it today in an Aztec mask.
 A cry out of storm and dark, a red yell and a purple prayer,
 A beaten shape of ashes
             waiting the sunrise or night,
             something or nothing,
             proud-eyed gambler.

Published in Chicago Poems
Tags: ambition

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