John Dollard in 1930s Indianola

I with Yankee eye did cast my vision down
The tarnished streets of shining Southerntown.
I in calm reply did mind my manners here
As I spied truth beneath a white veneer.
I saw signs whereby the folks kept folks in place—
In class through caste by past beliefs of race.
I exposed a lie disguised in symbols fair:
black child denied adulthood by white “care.”
I have found out why—until the symbols sway,
White father to black brother—caste will stay.


A Quote. A Poem. Of Regret. Of Self.

I wake and feel the fell of dark, not day.
What hours, O what black hours we have spent
This night! what sights you, heart, saw; ways you went!
And more must, in yet longer light’s delay.
With witness I speak this. But where I say
Hours I mean years, mean life. And my lament
Is cries countless, cries like dead letters sent
To dearest him that lives alas! away.

I am gall, I am heartburn. God’s most deep decree
Bitter would have me taste: my taste was me;
Bones built in me, flesh filled, blood brimmed the curse.
Selfyeast of spirit a dull dough sours. I see
The lost are like this, and their scourge to be
As I am mine, their sweating selves; but worse.

—Gerard Manley Hopkins

An Excerpt from a Poem. Of Echoes. Of Hiddenness.

                                   My words echo
Thus, in your mind.
                                   But to what purpose
Disturbing the dust on a bowl of rose-leaves
I do not know.
                                   Other echoes
Inhabit the garden. Shall we follow?
Quick, said the bird, find them, find them,
Round the corner. Through the first gate,
Into our first world, shall we follow
The deception of the thrush? Into our first world.

There they were, dignified, invisible,
Moving without pressure, over the dead leaves,
In the autumn heat, through the vibrant air,
And the bird called, in response to
The unheard music hidden in the shrubbery,
And the unseen eyebeam crossed, for the roses
Had the look of flowers that are looked at.

—T. S. Eliot, from “Burnt Norton”

Langston Hughes: “Harlem.” Of Hope and Dreams.

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?

—Langston Hughes, “Harlem”

Bleak Sorrow

Bleak sorrow beats a battered wing
And breaks its beak upon the pane.
This house, its peace, has shut it out.
From bloody mouth agape it screams.
Inside, we hear its desperate rap
Upon the window’s ended now,
Then nothing else, just quietness—
No scream, no squawk, no song, no fuss.
Bleak sorrow dies apart from us.

No Rage

Of and for a student

No rage stirs up his muddy eyes, with clear
Tears standing still on those unblinking lids.
No rage reveals his secret fight with fear
That dazzles, blinds, confounds, and ever bids

His drunkard mind to find its strongest drink
In his and Sisyphus’s glorious
Defeat. Again he rises just to sink.
Repeat! And there is none victorious

To give him hope enough to rage again,
He thinks. Now no inspiring speech avails
Because he thinks he knows the pathogen
Is words, words, words. Repeat! It always fails.

He’s tired, he thinks, too proud and tired to fight—
No rage about the dying of the light.