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Aprons of Silence

by Carl Sandburg, 1920

Many things I might have said today.
 And I kept my mouth shut.
 So many times I was asked
 To come and say the same things
 Everybody was saying, no end
 To the yes-yes, yes-yes, me-too, me-too.

 The aprons of silence covered me.
 A wire and hatch held my tongue.
 I spit nails into an abyss and listened.
 I shut off the gabble of Jones, Johnson, Smith.
 All whose names take pages in the city directory.

 I fixed up a padded cell and lugged it around.
 I locked myself in and nobody knew it.
 Only the keeper and the kept in the hoosegow
 Knew it—on the streets, in the postoffice,
 On the cars, into the railroad station
 Where the caller was calling, “All a-board,
 All a-board for .. Blaa-blaa .. Blaa-blaa,
 Blaa-blaa .. and all points northwest .. all a-board.”
 Here I took along my own hoosegow
 And did business with my own thoughts.
 Do you see? It must be the aprons of silence.

Published in Smoke and Steel

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