Threes by Carl Sandburg

I WAS a boy when I heard three red words
a thousand Frenchmen died in the streets
for: Liberty, Equality, Fraternity—I asked
why men die for words.

I was older; men with mustaches, sideburns,
lilacs, told me the high golden words are:
Mother, Home, and Heaven—other older men with
face decorations said: God, Duty, Immortality
—they sang these threes slow from deep lungs.

Years ticked off their say-so on the great clocks
of doom and damnation, soup and nuts: meteors flashed
their say-so: and out of great Russia came three
dusky syllables workmen took guns and went out to die
for: Bread, Peace, Land.

And I met a marine of the U.S.A., a leatherneck with a girl on his knee for a memory in ports circling the earth and he said: Tell me how to say three things and I always get by—gimme a plate of ham and eggs—how much?—and—do you love me, kid?

by Carl Sandburg

Other poems by 'Carl Sandburg'

Horses and Men in Rain

House

How Much?

How Yesterday Looked

Hydrangeas

Grass

Ready to Kill

Chicago

Fog

Happiness

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