“Dreams deferred: a response to Mr. Hughes”

On April 29, 2015 by pampi

A friend of mine posted a Langston Hughes poem on his fb wall and I couldn’t resist finding a way to soothe the anxiety I felt in it. Somehow my response warranted a prose correspondence structure.

Hughes’ poem is so light looking yet anxious and heavy. I originally wrote my response following his structure, but it looked decidedly unwieldy. And as I was addressing him in my title, it looked more and more like a dense letter. When I converted it into a letter, it read better. It propelled itself due to the endless nature of the prose form. The repetitions and rhythmic quality in the lines lent itself to a response hopefully worthy of addressing a poet like Hughes. My syntax was directly inspired by his original words. Yet, I could not indent. I do indeed dislike the look of indentation in letter-writing. Note: He wrote on paper (see attached). I wrote my response on my phone’s Notes application. Increasingly I write digitally, though paper is pure pleasure. Look how expressive his hand-written lines are!

Hughes wrote in 1951:11052370_1060507587297528_6691454681516489140_n

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

Dearest Mr. Hughes,

Worry not, sweet poet: please rest. Your dream’s caught fire in all our breasts.

Dreams stay alive in tender bellies of babes from seeds harvested and dried by tired guardians. Dreams plump up as raisins under sweltering sun quenched by the sweat and the wet of sudden summer rains. Dreams are the balm ours foremothers ran to calm festering sores inflicted by scattering fire ants. The stink of bodies as meat broken and burnt… the syrup of sweetest limbs ambered through time – Nay! All the rot is not forgot nor could be reworked through bleached and sugar crusted “history” texts. O dearest Mr. Hughes, we grew instead – we grew our dreams in the interim.

Dreams are of different alchemy than stone-filled pockets. Now and then hope is heavy laden and clouded with doubt that sags. But dreams? They come again when fear is dispelled. Dreams: they come and come and come again. Dreams fuel the spark that explodes melting hearts and minds as one blazing miracle of blood, bones and ash. Dreams: they ease into cracks of our broken-hearted and inspire quiet courage to labor and birth new worlds.

“What happens to a dream deferred?” you’d asked. It just catches and catches as a Phoenix spurred.

Thank you for your words. Thank you for your dream. Thank you for your work in setting us free. It is our time to take your burning torch – worry not anymore, sweet poet: It’s now up to us. May you be at ease and rest in peace,

Pampi

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