Verse > Carl Sandburg > Smoke and Steel > IV. Playthings of the Wind > 19. Clean Hands
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Carl Sandburg (1878–1967).  Smoke and Steel. 1922.
  
IV. Playthings of the Wind
19. Clean Hands
  
IT is something to face the sun and know you are free.
To hold your head in the shafts of daylight slanting the earth
And know your heart has kept a promise and the blood runs clean:
  It is something.
To go one day of your life among all men with clean hands,        5
Clean for the day book today and the record of the after days,
Held at your side proud, satisfied to the last, and ready,
So to have clean hands:
    God, it is something,
    One day of life so        10
  And a memory fastened till the stars sputter out
  And a love washed as white linen in the noon drying.
Yes, go find the men of clean hands one day and see the life, the memory, the love they have, to stay longer than the plunging sea wets the shores or the fires heave under the crust of the earth.
O yes, clean hands is the chant and only one man knows its sob and its undersong and he dies clenching the secret more to him than any woman or chum.
And O the great brave men, the silent little brave men, proud of their hands—clutching the knuckles of their fingers into fists ready for death and the dark, ready for life and the fight, the pay and the memories—O the men proud of their hands.        15

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