Carl Sandburg

(6 January 1878 – 22 July 1967 / Illinois)

Buttons - Poem by Carl Sandburg

I have been watching the war map slammed up for advertising in front of the newspaper office.
Buttons—red and yellow buttons—blue and black buttons—are shoved back and forth across the map.

A laughing young man, sunny with freckles,
Climbs a ladder, yells a joke to somebody in the crowd,
And then fixes a yellow button one inch west
And follows the yellow button with a black button one inch west.

(Ten thousand men and boys twist on their bodies in a red soak along a river edge,
Gasping of wounds, calling for water, some rattling death in their throats.)
Who would guess what it cost to move two buttons one inch on the war map here in front of the newspaper office where the freckle-faced young man is laughing to us?


Comments about Buttons by Carl Sandburg

  • Rookie Jane Moon (5/15/2009 11:40:00 AM)

    This is a testimony to the seriousness and great sacrifices of war, the deaths and injuries, the great cost. Such an irony it is to have a 'laughing young man' moving the buttons on the war map - buttons that show the progression of deaths and wounds of thousands! (Report) Reply

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Read poems about / on: war, red, river, water, death



Poem Submitted: Friday, January 3, 2003



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