Verse > Carl Sandburg > Smoke and Steel > IV. Playthings of the Wind > 11. The Liars
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Carl Sandburg (1878–1967).  Smoke and Steel. 1922.
  
IV. Playthings of the Wind
11. The Liars
  
(March, 1919)


A LIAR goes in fine clothes.
A liar goes in rags.
A liar is a liar, clothes or no clothes.
A liar is a liar and lives on the lies he tells and dies in a life of lies.
And the stonecutters earn a living—with lies—on the tombs of liars.        5
  
Aliar looks ’em in the eye
And lies to a woman,
Lies to a man, a pal, a child, a fool.
And he is an old liar; we know him many years back.
  
  A liar lies to nations.        10
  A liar lies to the people.
A liar takes the blood of the people
And drinks this blood with a laugh and a lie,
  A laugh in his neck,
  A lie in his mouth.        15
And this liar is an old one; we know him many years.
  He is straight as a dog’s hind leg.
  He is straight as a corkscrew.
He is white as a black cat’s foot at midnight.
  
The tongue of a man is tied on this,        20
On the liar who lies to nations,
The liar who lies to the people.
The tongue of a man is tied on this
And ends: To hell with ’em all.
  To hell with ’em all.        25
  
It’s a song hard as a riveter’s hammer,
  Hard as the sleep of a crummy hobo,
  Hard as the sleep of a lousy doughboy,
Twisted as a shell-shock idiot’s gibber.
  
The liars met where the doors were locked.        30
They said to each other: Now for war.
The liars fixed it and told ’em: Go.
  
Across their tables they fixed it up,
Behind their doors away from the mob.
And the guns did a job that nicked off millions.        35
The guns blew seven million off the map,
The guns sent seven million west.
Seven million shoving up the daisies.
Across their tables they fixed it up,
  The liars who lie to nations.        40
  
  And now
  Out of the butcher’s job
  And the boneyard junk the maggots have cleaned,
  Where the jaws of skulls tell the jokes of war ghosts,
Out of this they are calling now: Let’s go back where we were.        45
    Let us run the world again, us, us.
  
Where the doors are locked the liars say: Wait and we’ll cash in again.
  
So I hear The People talk.
I hear them tell each other:
  Let the strong men be ready.        50
  Let the strong men watch.
  Let your wrists be cool and your head clear.
  Let the liars get their finish,
  The liars and their waiting game, waiting a day again
  To open the doors and tell us: War! get out to your war again.        55
  
So I hear The People tell each other:
  Look at to-day and to-morrow.
  Fix this clock that nicks off millions
  When The Liars say it’s time.
  Take things in your own hands.        60
    To hell with ’em all,
  The liars who lie to nations,
  The liars who lie to The People.

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