Mr. Attila

They made a myth of you, professor,
     you of the gentle voice,
     the books, the specs,
     the furitive rabbit manners
     in the mortar-board cap
     and the medieval gown.

They didn’t think it, eh professor?
On account of you’re so absent-minded,
you bumping into the tree and saying,
“Excuse me, I thought you were a tree,”
passing on again blank and absent-minded.

Now it’s “Mr. Attila, how do you do?”
Do you pack wallops of wholesale death?
Are you the practical dynamic son-of-a-gun?
Have you come through with a few abstractions?
Is it you Mr. Attila we hear saying,
“I beg your pardon but we believe we have made some degree of progress on the residual qualities of the atom”?

                                                                                 [August, 1945]

Carl Sandburg, “Mr. Attila” from The Complete Poems of Carl Sandburg. Copyright © 1970 by Carl Sandburg. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Source: The Complete Poems of Carl Sandburg (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1970)
More Poems by Carl Sandburg