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chicago zen poem

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chicago zen poem

The “Chicago Zen” poem is a short and simple poem by Carl Sandburg that reflects the Zen concept of mindfulness and being present in the moment.

The poem reads:

“Hog Butcher for the World, Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat, Player with Railroads and the Nation’s Freight Handler; Stormy, husky, brawling, City of the Big Shoulders: They tell me you are wicked and I believe them, for I have seen your painted women under the gas lamps luring the farm boys. And they tell me you are crooked and I answer: Yes, it is true I have seen the gunman kill and go free to kill again. And they tell me you are brutal and my reply is: On the faces of women and children I have seen the marks of wanton hunger. And having answered so I turn once more to those who sneer at this my city, and I give them back the sneer and say to them: Come and show me another city with lifted head singing so proud to be alive and coarse and strong and cunning. Flinging magnetic curses amid the toil of piling job on job, here is a tall bold slugger set vivid against the little soft cities; Fierce as a dog with tongue lapping for action, cunning as a savage pitted against the wilderness, Bareheaded, Shoveling, Wrecking, Planning, Building, breaking, rebuilding, Bragging and laughing that under his wrist is the pulse, and under his ribs the heart of the people, Laughing!

The poem is a celebration of the city of Chicago, with its rough and tumble nature and hardworking people. Sandburg portrays Chicago as a place of vitality, energy, and resilience, where people are driven to work hard and live their lives to the fullest.

The poem’s Zen-like quality comes from its emphasis on being present and fully engaged in the moment. Sandburg’s vivid descriptions of the city’s people and their activities encourage the reader to imagine themselves in the midst of the bustling city, experiencing its energy and vitality firsthand.

Overall, “Chicago Zen” is a poem that celebrates the beauty and vitality of the city of Chicago, while also reminding us to be present and engaged in the world around us.

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