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The Magpie Sings the Great Depression:
Selections from DeWitt Clinton High School's Literary Magazine, 1929-1942

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Composite Picture

By Leonard Harris

The Magpie, January 1938, v. 22, n. 1., p. 21.

You want me to tell
about those good old days?
To mold and jell
the events of two score years—
the crowded, colorful maze of events
of forty years
into a tale?

You want me to show
green hills and unstained land—
you want to see a nation grow,
and see its star go up and up?
You want to see the product of a billion
   gnarled hands—
you want to see its star go up and up?
Well....

February 15, 1898
While the dawn is still hanging
over dirty blue-green waters,
and silver streaks of light
play on the grayish steel of harnessed ship;
while sweating stokers and restless tars
toss about in sweltering bunks—
a roar—a burst of flame—and bodies
   thrown up high.
—and war with Spain
for five long months.

May 12, 1902
From long deep holes in the earth
and blackened, narrow cavities in solid
   rock,
Out from those man-made holes beneath
   the ground,
on a dreary, rainy afternoon, from every
   coal mine
in Pennsylvania,
soot covered workers filed out from hell,
out to the face of the earth;
Strike! they told their fat and buxom
   wives—
Strike! the fuzzy headed children yelled it
   out—
Strike! and 145,000 workers stopped their
   work.
Labor had begun to organize.

October 27, 1904
For many years
men beneath the ground had worked
and sweated, and dug their ways through
hard yielding rock and dirt:
and some had died beneath the walks,
where curious pedestrians gathered 'round
an occasional opening.
Long years they'd worked, and now were
   through;
the flags were up, and bands were playing.
the Mayor made a speech;
the President's wife cut the string,
the Governor put the first nickel in a slot.
And the subway was open.

April 14, 1912
The decks were near deserted,
but in the nursery children played,
and laughed; and adults in the lounge
told anecdotes, and smoked, and sang.
In the wireless room, the operator
talked with Liverpool . . . Rain . . . cold
   cooler
And during the night, a monstrous white
   shape
loomed up before the ship;
a grinding crash, a terrible noise,
1,517 killed . . . 103 women . . . 53 chil-
   dren
The Titanic went down in the Newfound-
   land sea.

June 28, 1914
For four nightmarish years,
eight major powers fought
and wounded, and gassed, and murdered
sixty-five million human beings;
and wrecked their homes, and orphaned
   their sons,
destroyed their churches, and were
worse than beasts
because an insane student had fired
six shots, and killed the Archduke and
his wife at Sarajevo.

You want me to tell
about those good old days?
But how can I, with mere words and verse
write in a stanza the thoughts,
the lives, the destinies of a race?
Indeed, he needs be more than human,
who can pierce the veil of Fate!




The Magpie Sings the Great Depression

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