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July 29th, 2015 - we have 234 poets, 8,025 poems and 294,104 comments.
Carl Sandburg - Buttons

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?

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Added: Feb 4 2004 | Viewed: 576 times | Comments and analysis of Buttons by Carl Sandburg Comments (9)

Buttons - Comments and Information

Poet: Carl Sandburg
Poem: 7. Buttons
Volume: Chicago Poems
- War Poems (1914-1915)
Year: Published/Written in 1914

Comment 9 of 9, added on July 18th, 2014 at 10:38 PM.

Ax8pNs A big thank you for your article.Really thank you! Really Cool.

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Comment 8 of 9, added on October 12th, 2011 at 5:10 PM.
A little background perhaps

I read buttons, and it is clear that the buttons indicate soldiers, but from what conflict I wondered. Being an American and egocentric, I automatically assumed that it must have been an American conflict, however, I discovered that in 1904-1905 there was a war between Russia and japan, and theoretically, the colors of the buttons would be an era-appropriate representation of these countries. Sandburg was a member of the socialist party at that time, so it seems appropriate that, although he was not a member of the nations in the conflict, he possibly was interested in the expansion of the communist party.

Robyn from United States
Comment 7 of 9, added on February 28th, 2011 at 9:47 PM.

Some posters have suggested this poem was published in 1905 and has nothing to do with the First World War. They are absolutely incorrect. Sandburg only began publishing in 1916, and this poem is from his Chicago Poems (his first collection), explicitly titled "War Poems, 1914-1915." It is quite obviously a poem about the suffering inflicted upon nameless soldiers who are represented on a news bulletin as a meaningless blob that has more to do with military objectives than the reality of warfare.

Chris from Canada

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