Back to Index


by Carl Sandburg, 1916

I waited today for a freight train to pass.
 Cattle cars with steers butting their horns against the bars, went by.
 And a half a dozen hoboes stood on bumpers between cars.
 Well, the cattle are respectable, I thought.
 Every steer has its transportation paid for by the farmer sending it to market,
 While the hoboes are law-breakers in riding a railroad train without a ticket.
 It reminded me of ten days I spent in the Allegheny County jail in Pittsburgh.
 I got ten days even though I was a veteran of the Spanish-American war.
 Cooped in the same cell with me was an old man, a bricklayer and a booze-fighter.
 But it just happened he, too, was a veteran soldier, and he had fought to preserve the Union and free the niggers.
 We were three in all, the other being a Lithuanian who got drunk on pay day at the steel works and got to fighting a policeman;
 All the clothes he had was a shirt, pants and shoes—somebody got his hat and coat and what money he had left over when he got drunk.

Published in Chicago Poems

Any corrections or public domain poems I should have here? Email me at poems (at) this domain.