Mill Doors - As I read this poem, I couldn't help but feel extremely privileged to live the life I have lived. I didn't start working until I was 16 years old and even then, it was my own decision. All of the money I have earned at work has gone to my own personal expenses, and I never had the responsibility of helping support my family. To think of all the young children who were forced to work in such horrible conditions and for such low wages, it's a surprise so many made it out alive. Sandburg captures the loss of youth vividly as he speaks of the "sleepy eyes and fingers" of children being "tapped" and drained of their innocence. Children enter the work field full of life and energy but leave nothing but skeletons of their former selves. The youth of today's society should be very grateful to the previous generations that have changed these horrid conditions.
Fish Crier - This poem caught my eye particularly because it takes place on Maxwell Street, where I currently live. As recent as 10 years ago, Maxwell Street used to function primarily as the historic Maxwell St. Market and was a lively, diverse location within the city. Sandburg provides a brief image of a Jewish fish salesman making a living selling fish to customers in the market. Sandburg illustrates the joys this man experiences while selling his fish and clearly shows that one can be happy in life and full of pride even when one is only a seller of fish. That is essentially the spirit of most of those who came to Chicago. It was viewed as a city of opportunity and, though not entirely true, those who came here still made the best of the new lives they had. It is kind of disappointing that the original Maxwell Street Market no longer exists and that the reason for its removal was for the creation of the building in which I currently live. Having seen several images of the market and the music and life that ran through it, I wish UIC had preserved the historic site.