The Right to Grief, A Poem by Carl Sandburg
To Certain Poets About to Die
TAKE your fill of intimate remorse, perfumed sorrow,
Over the dead child of a millionaire,
And the pity of Death refusing any check on the bank
Which the millionaire might order his secretary to
And get cashed.
You for your grief and I for mine.
Let me have a sorrow my own if I want to.
I shall cry over the dead child of a stockyards hunky.
His job is sweeping blood off the floor.
He gets a dollar seventy cents a day when he works
And it’s many tubs of blood he shoves out with a broom
day by day.
Now his three year old daughter
Is in a white coffin that cost him a week’s wages.
Every Saturday night he will pay the undertaker fifty
cents till the debt is wiped out.
The hunky and his wife and the kids
Cry over the pinched face almost at peace in the white box.
They remember it was scrawny and ran up high doctor bills.
They are glad it is gone for the rest of the family now
will have more to eat and wear.
Yet before the majesty of Death they cry around the coffin
And wipe their eyes with red bandanas and sob when
the priest says, “God have mercy on us all.”
I have a right to feel my throat choke about this.
You take your grief and I mine–see?
To-morrow there is no funeral and the hunky goes back
to his job sweeping blood off the floor at a dollar
seventy cents a day.
All he does all day long is keep on shoving hog blood
ahead of him with a broom.