Verse > Carl Sandburg > Smoke and Steel > IV. Playthings of the Wind > 10. Threes
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Carl Sandburg (1878–1967).  Smoke and Steel. 1922.
  
IV. Playthings of the Wind
10. Threes
  
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,        5
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        10
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?        15

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