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.”
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,
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!
From The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes, published by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Copyright © 1994 the Estate of Langston Hughes. Used with permission.
The wine of uncharted days, Their unsteady stance against the working world, The intense intoxication of nothing to be done, A day off, The dance of the big-hearted dog In us, freed into a sudden green, an immense field: Off we go, more run than care, more dance— If a polka could be done not in a room but straight Ahead, into the beautiful distance, the booming Sound of the phonograph weakening, but our legs Getting stronger with their bounding practice: This day, that feeling, drunkenness Born of indecision, lack of focus, but everything Forgiven: Today is a day exposed for what it is, A workday suddenly turned over on its back, Hoping to be rubbed.
Copyright © 2012 by Alberto Ríos. Used with permission of the author.
We live in secret cities And we travel unmapped roads. We speak words between us that we recognize But which cannot be looked up. They are our words. They come from very far inside our mouths. You and I, we are the secret citizens of the city Inside us, and inside us There go all the cars we have driven And seen, there are all the people We know and have known, there Are all the places that are But which used to be as well. This is where They went. They did not disappear. We each take a piece Through the eye and through the ear. It's loud inside us, in there, and when we speak In the outside world We have to hope that some of that sound Does not come out, that an arm Not reach out In place of the tongue.
Copyright © 1998 by Alberto Rios. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
It was a long time ago.
I have almost forgotten my dream.
But it was there then,
In front of me,
Bright like a sun,—
And then the wall rose,
Between me and my dream.
Rose slowly, slowly,
The light of my dream.
Rose until it touched the sky,—
I am black.
I lie down in the shadow.
No longer the light of my dream before me,
Only the thick wall.
Only the shadow.
My dark hands!
Break through the wall!
Find my dream!
Help me to shatter this darkness,
To smash this night,
To break this shadow
Into a thousand lights of sun,
Into a thousand whirling dreams
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on February 5, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.