"Let America Be America Again" by Langston Hughes

Excerpts from “Let America Be America Again,” written by Langston Hughes in 1935. 79 years ago! I don’t feel good about how far we have (not) come since then. Read the full poem here.

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, 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—

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!

But I who am bound by my mirror
as well as my bed
see causes in colour
as well as sex

and sit here wondering
which me will survive
all these liberations.

Audre Lorde in “Who Said It Was Simple
via The Poetry Foundation

You have to let things
Be as they are.
Who knows which of us
Deserves the world more?

Robert Bly in “What Things Want
via The Academy of American Poets (poetsorg)

3 notes

This is my last dollar,
last cigarette, last match.

Peter Covino in “Cut Off the Ears of Winter
via The Academy of American Poets (poetsorg)

2 notes

For me, love’s like the wind, unseen, unknown.
I see the trees are bending where it’s been

Neil Gaiman in “Sonnet" (a.k.a. "Dark Sonnet")

3 notes

For life’s a shabby subterfuge,
And death is real, and dark, and huge.

John Updike in “Requiem" (published posthumously in his final collection of poetry, Endpoint and Other Poems)

Our lives are spinning out
from world to world;
the shapes of things
are shifting in the wind.
What do we know
beyond the rapture and the dread?

Stanley Kunitz in “The Abduction"
via The Academy of American Poets (poetsorg)

6 notes

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Thanks, Mick Byrne!