Tag Archives: poetry

Let America Be America Again

A young man born in Joplin, Missouri in 1902, inspired by the blues and his own experience, wrote the poem “Let America Be America Again.”

Today, we hear men and women, young and old, yelling at us about what America should be. They tell us to Make America Great Again. Make America Smart Again. Make America Kind Again.

Yet, fifty years after his death, it is Mr. Langston Hughes whose words speak loudest to me.

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark? 
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean—
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That’s made America the land it has become.
O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home—
For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
To build a “homeland of the free.”

The free?

Who said the free?  Not me?
Surely not me?  The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we’ve dreamed
And all the songs we’ve sung
And all the hopes we’ve held
And all the flags we’ve hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay—
Except the dream that’s almost dead today.

O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine—the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME—
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose—
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,
America!

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again!


Langston Hughes, 1902 - 1967


From The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes, published by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Copyright © 1994 the Estate of Langston Hughes.

Ask. Seek. Desire. Expand. Move. Feel. Be.

There she is. . .
The one who loves too hard, feels too deeply, asks too often, desires too much.
There she is taking up too much space, with her laughter, her curves, her honesty.
Her presence is as tall as a tree, as wide as a mountain. Her energy occupies every crevice of the room.
There she is causing a ruckus with her persistent wanting. She desires too much happiness, too much alone time, too much pleasure. She’ll go through brimstone, murky river, and hellfire to get it. She’ll risk all to quell the longings of her heart and body. This makes her dangerous.
She is dangerous.
And there she goes, making people think too much, feel too much, swoon too much. She with her authentic prose and a self-assuredness in the way she carries herself. She with her belly laughs and her insatiable appetite and her proneness to fiery passion.
Too loud, too vibrant, too honest, too emotional, too smart, too intense, too pretty, too difficult, too sensitive, too wild, too intimidating, too successful, too fat, too strong, too political, too joyous, too needy—too much.
She should simmer down a bit, be taken down a couple notches.
Someone should put her in her place.
Here I am. . . with my too-tender heart and my too-much emotions.
A hedonist, feminist, pleasure seeker, empath.
I want a lot—justice, sincerity, intimacy, actualization, respect, to be seen, to be understood, your undivided attention, and all of your promises to be kept.
I’ve been called high maintenance because I want what I want, and intimidating because of the space I occupy. I’ve been called selfish because I am self-loving. I’ve been called a witch because I know how to heal.
And still, I want and I feel and I ask and I risk and I take the air that fills my lungs.
I must.
We are so afraid, terrified of her big presence, of the way she commands respect and wields the truth. We shame her for her wanting, for her passion.
And still. . . she thrives.
She is me, she is you, and she is loving that she’s finally, finally getting some airtime.
If you’ve ever been called “too much,” or “too emotional,” or “bitchy,” or “stuck up,”. . . I implore you to embrace all that you are—all of your depth, all of your vastness; to not hold yourself in, and to never abandon yourself, your bigness, your radiance.
Forget everything you’ve heard—your too much-ness is a gift; oh yes, one that can heal, incite, liberate, and cut straight to the heart of things.
Do not be afraid of this gift, and let no one shy you away from it. Your too much-ness is magic, is medicine. It can change the world.
Ask. Seek. Desire. Expand. Move. Feel. Be.
Make your waves, fan your flames, give us chills.
Please, rise.
We need you.
**** this is an edited version of author Ev’Yan Whitney’s work. I took the liberty of my own emphases, like she told me too. Thank you, Ms. Whitney, and right back at you.

Neruda’s Love Poems – Rewritten

I love your feet
only because they walked
upon the earth and upon
the wind and upon the waters,
until they found me.

in the skin of the grapes
I thought I touched you.

do not take from me your laughter.
when your laughter enters
it opens for me all
the doors of life.

in the spring, love.
I want your laughter like
the flower I was waiting for.
deny me bread, air,
light, spring,
but never your laughter
for I would die.

on waking, your mouth,
come from your dream,
gave me the taste of earth,
of the depths of your life,
and i received your kiss
from the sea that surrounds us.

Hide me in your arms
just for this night.

Let the wind rush
crowned with foam,
let it call to me and seek me
galloping in the shadow,
while I, sunk
beneath your big eyes,
just for this night
shall rest, my love.

in the night and the shadow,
with your steps will enter
perfume’s silent step

But wait for me,
keep for me your sweetness.

we shall always be, you and I,
alone upon the earth
to begin life.

with you I become again
the earth that you are:
I know again how I am born.

you came to my kisses with the fire
of an unchained meteor
you melted in my blood

all thirst ends in our embrace.

pure, with the purity we created

You were a little leaf
that trembled on my chest.
Life’s wind put you there.

spring
offers us the sky,
but the dark earth
is our name

Bring your substance deep down to me,
heavily,
let your existence cut across me

lineal strings
inheritance of smoke.

a surge of water with remnants of the sea
strikes the silences that wait for you

Advance in sweetness

That is why you are endless

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Native

Across the sand
Bare feet
deep breath
dive in

calm, clear, teal
farther and farther
lungs scream
tiny schools

mermaid hair
soft sand
reflections
waves

tepid Atlantic
wraps around skin
hearts aglow
loyal sunshine

foggy brain
molecules cling
his presence lingers
dive deep

Let’s Get Something Straight

The term “feminist.”

It does not mean I don’t want a boy or girl to open doors for me.
Please hold my hand.
And walk me home.

It does not mean I won’t do the dishes
and the laundry
and vacuum.
And feed us.
Every week.

Which is why
You should too, occasionally
or always.

It does not mean that I won’t shave my arm pits
or wax my hairy bits.
It does mean that I’d like you to earn the privilege to comment
on such things.

Which brings me to:
Put a ring on it.
or
In feminist terms:
Communicate your intentions.

Tell her:
What you want.
How long you want it for.
and
What your expectations are.

Then,
and this is important,
Listen while she tells you her intentions
And her expectations.

Here is the big one:

If I stand
in a teeny bikini
with every inch
of my god given beauty
on display.
I shall not fear
that any person
will lay a finger on me.

Keep your laws to yourself, too.

This temple
That I reside in
is Mine.

Divinely and unequivocally.

Lastly,
Respect me.

Not as a man
Not as woman
As a person.

And a writer.
A creative thinker, activist, and problem solver.
A mother, a daughter, a lover.

A woman
Above and below
and in between
all of those lines.
Not boxed in by them.
And never,
Ever,
Abused by them.

*These, of course, are only my personal opinions and I don’t claim to speak for all people.

Ordinary Won’t Do

In what world is this
Too pretty to kiss
Too bold to relate
Too pedantic about fate
Too sure to question
Too pure, this breath
Too undying this passion
Too soon this death

Where mediocrity thrives, certainty dies
Petulance cries and devotion tries
For a stronger pull in this way or that
The way strangers stare at a fabulous hat
Like a bird of paradise lures his mate
Ordinary won’t do for an extraordinary fate

In generalities, where some subside
It’s too slippery a slope down which depth will slide
Too much beauty to see
Too much wine to drink
Too fresh is the fruit
The nectar, too sweet
Too tangible to ignore
Too potent the scent
Too intoxicating the joys
Too drenched in wonderment

Too spoiled by lovers who knew all too well
Too sure of the truths that one kiss will tell
Too fickle to stay in one place and wait
Too tempted by the promise in every day break
In what world is this? I ask faithfully
(Wearing a fabulous hat and coat of serenity)

The Eye of the Blind

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder they say

So the artist beholds to place on display

An eye in a camera, some paint, choice words

Ten fingers who consistently find the right chords

 

Like an artery carrying blood from the heart

Where your pulse is the beauty and your blood is my art

 

Train tracks, lavender, a woman’s silhouette

Vivaldi, Lichtenstein, Romeo’s Juliette

Who has the authority to behold and define?

Whose eye is unbiased besides that which is blind