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Specifically:

I am riding on a limited express, one of the crack trains of the nation.

Hurtling across the prairie into blue haze and dark air go fifteen all-steel coaches holding a thousand people.

(All the coaches shall be scrap and rust and all the men and women laughing in the diners and sleepers shall pass to ashes.)

I ask a man in the smoker where he is going and he answers: “Omaha.”

Sandburg: Limited


It's a profound poem wrapped in a shell of the everyday, and it's title is perhaps taken as a commentary on the mundane mindset.

I wouldn't think Sandburg means anything by relating Omaha specifically to non-existence, possibly the name of the city just scans, or represents the heartland, but then I think of Strindberg naming his famous play about marriage "The Dance of Death" and wonder...

Q: Did Sandburg have any negative feelings about the wonderful city of Omaha?

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    I don't think he's identifying Omaha with scrap and rust and ashes. The point of the last line is that people don't realize they're headed for oblivion; they just think they're going to a nice normal place like Omaha. – MissMonicaE Jul 18 '18 at 18:22
  • @MissMonicaE (even the way you phrase it makes Omaha sound like oblivion;) I suspect there were also practical considerations in the choice--"Omaha" is a dactyl and a strong way to end a poem b/c the stress is on that first syllable--compare to substituting "Chicago", which has the same number of syllables but doesn't rhythmically convey the same sense of finality. – DukeZhou Jul 18 '18 at 20:56
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Read Sandburg's poem, "Omaha". I think you'll see that he does not: "...Omaha works to get the world a breakfast."

Omaha, the roughneck, feeds armies,
Eats and swears from a dirty face.
Omaha works to get the world a breakfast.

  • I took the liberty of adding the last stanza of the poem, as well as a link to its full text, to your answer. I think that makes it more credible. Is there anything else in Sandburg's works that pertains to his feelings towards Omaha? – Gallifreyan Jul 18 '18 at 11:05

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