Under his ribs the heart of the people

My kids reciting the Chicago by Carl Sandburg in 2014 for National Poetry Month.

Today’s prompt is What is a song or poem that speaks to you and why?

I think about the poem Chicago by Carl Sandburg nearly every day. I have for years. I love the imagery, personification and rhythm. I love its grit. I love how organic and industrial it is. Most of all I love the commitment. The narrator’s commitment to “this my city” speaks to me, not just as a person who loves the city of Chicago, but as a person who loves people.

Here, read:

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,
   Building, breaking, rebuilding,
Under the smoke, dust all over his mouth, laughing with white teeth,
Under the terrible burden of destiny laughing as a young man laughs,
Laughing even as an ignorant fighter laughs who has never lost a battle,
Bragging and laughing that under his wrist is the pulse, and under his ribs the heart of the people,
Laughing the stormy, husky, brawling laughter of Youth, half-naked, sweating, proud to be Hog Butcher, Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat, Player with Railroads and Freight Handler to the Nation.

Currently, there is a snow plow naming contest in Chicago and “City of the Big Shovelers” is one of the “contestants.” God I hope it wins.


I look and listen for poetry everywhere I go. Sometimes it sneaks its way into a conversation and other times it’s just right there in front of me, written on the wall. I’m grateful for it all.

Gallery 400 on the University of Illinois Chicago campus.
A closeup of the things that poetry can do.

Thanks for reading.

Poems not emojis,


Chicago’s Tuesdays@9 Musicians and Comedians perform at The Annoyance through May

JJ Smith was the Naked Angels Tuesdays@9 Chicago musical guest on April 12. Just brilliant. Tell your smart speaker, “Play JJ Smith” and enjoy.

Naked Angels is the longest cold reading series in the United States and there are still several weeks left in the season. Every week we read five pieces of new writing. During the intermission, we feature a musician or comedian.

Actors show up at 8:30 and say they’d like to read. A whirlwind casting frenzy takes place and the new work is then read onstage.

If you are curious about what these “naked angels” are all about, stop by The Annoyance Theatre & Bar every Tuesday night through May 17, 2022 to experience the glory! It’s free, but bring your ID and proof of vaccination to get in.

Once you’re in, let us know if you’d like to read. Joshua Fardon and Patricia Mario and I are positioned close to the door, so we’re easy to find. To increase your chances of being cast, show up no later than 8:30. The show begins at 9:00 in the little theater. The intermission begins around 10:00 and that’s when the musicians and comedians perform. A lot of fun.

After two years on Zoom, we finally resumed in-person shows in March and Gail Gallagher was our first in-person musical guest.

On March 29, Robbie Ellis was our musical guest.

And on April 5, we hosted Heather Styka.

April 12 was JJ Smith and on April 19, comedian Izzy Salhani will be perform her standup during the intermission. Here’s the schedule for the rest of the season.

Apr. 26 Gail Gallagher

May 03 Matt Keeley

May 10 Robbie Ellis

Robbie Ellis shares his interactive comedy songs with an assist from Rebecca Carver, Maeve Devitt and Michael Bassett.
Aviva Jaye (left) and Heather Styka

For our final May 17 in-person show of the season, Aviva Jaye will be our musical guest. Whether you’re a writer, actor, musician or comedian, Tuesdays@9 is for you. In fact, Tuesdays is for everyone.

Thanks for reading. Hope to see you at a Tuesdays soon! -Connie (the music director)