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Alley Rats

by Carl Sandburg, 1920

They were calling certain styles of whiskers by the name of “lilacs.”
 And another manner of beard assumed in their chatter a verbal guise
 Of “mutton chops,” “galways,” “feather dusters.”

 Metaphors such as these sprang from their lips while other street cries
 Sprang from sparrows finding scattered oats among interstices of the curb.
 Ah-hah these metaphors—and Ah-hah these boys—among the police they were known
 As the Dirty Dozen and their names took the front pages of newspapers
 And two of them croaked on the same day at a “necktie party”... if we employ the metaphors of their lips.

Published in Smoke and Steel

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