Education Opinion

A Dream Foreseen: My Response to Langston Hughes

By Marilyn Rhames — December 14, 2011 1 min read
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A Dream Deferred

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?

I was driving home from work last week, passing through one of most dangerous neighborhoods in Chicago, and I observed the blight surrounding my minivan. My two daughters were on the back seat, the kindergartener was asleep and the fourth grader was awake but oblivious to the world. And the Langston Hughes poem came to mind. I dare now respond to his question:

“What happens to a dream deferred?”

A Dream Foreseen

A dream deferred is slow death

to a soul.

The tragic passing of hope,

sorrows better left untold.

It breathes its last breath in the saddest of plights;

delusions of false affections,

the mantra of gangsters’ rites.

It plays out in drive-bys, in muggings, in killings;

when smiling honor students

bleed out near school buildings

It celebrates the lawless, the lewd,


Its music speaks of failure

as truth to believe in

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up? Fester? Rot?

The haves just keep on having

And the have-nots just have not.

What happens to a dream deferred?

Walk with me through the ‘hood

A town of abundant potential

But few emphasize the good

Still, I have seen a new city

streaming with milk and sweet honey.

Where black and brown children

are loved, treasured far above money.

I am now changed.

Frustrated, but convinced.

I believe.

I know.

I have a 6th sense.

It’s my hope for the children.

It’s my breath of life.

I vow to keep it holy;

a union of husband and wife.

Langston, please, can you tell me

What happens to a dream foreseen?

When the present has not the capacity

to reveal the reality of its being?

Is my dream still valid

though I may never live to see it?

Though I feel it in my pulse?

Though my heart beats for it?

A dream deterred?

I cannot let it be!

Dreams are always very much on time

My dream is waiting on me.

The opinions expressed in Charting My Own Course are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.