Showing posts with label imagery. Show all posts
Showing posts with label imagery. Show all posts


"Rest at pale evening . . ." - Excerpt from Langston Hughes's "Dream Variations"

A view from the field house in Sunset Park in South Brooklyn, New York.
Rest at pale evening . . .
A tall slim tree . . .
Night coming tenderly
Black like me

- from Dream Variations, Langston Hughes
Personal Story
I like to collect quotes from poetry, from various sources, and whatnot. I have always liked this passage from Langston Hughes's poem "Dream Variations." Why do I like it? I like it because it is a relevant example of a poet exhorting darkness - extolling the color of blackness - rather than relegating "black" to a tired, and debilitating symbol of evil. So. That is why I like the poem. Hughes is resurrecting "black" as a symbol of beauty, not as a symbol of moral darkness.

Going Further
The poem imagines a speaker coming upon nature at the moment the sun is going down. Looking at the landscape, there is a moment when day turns to night, and the beauty of the oncoming dark sky fills the viewer with a sense of the sublime, of beauty.

Making Connections
Interestingly, the last line from this passage, "Black like me" is used as the title of a book, by John Howard Griffiths - about a white man who changes the color of his skin to experience what it feels like to be black in the rural South during the Civil Rights era of the 1960s. The book is strange because I do not think this kind of experiment would carry over well in today's political terms.

Do you have any poems that you've read that turn the tables on symbolism and imagery? I'd love to hear your examples - you can leave a comment in the box below.
Works Cited
Hughes, Langston. "Dream Variations" The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes, published by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Copyright © 1994.
Image Source: "Sunset Park" © 2018 Greig Roselli


Poem: Train Station, Hammond, Louisiana

photo continuance: seattleweekly
stands a peach and plum seller and his grandson,
a pail of peaches for 10,
a basket of plums for 5;
the peaches downy and yellow,
a brown tinge of grass on top of their round facades,
the plums thin, easy to bite into;
they tell me,
a family of fruit sellers,
their white pick-up truck doubles as a storefront
and their transportation,
hailing from Alabama,
with Alabama plates,
traveling farmers,
a round, happy belly, age lines born from cheerfulness,

approaching to buy something with measly dollars,
rumpled in a cheap wallet,
the grandfather goes and sits down,
the grandmother, reading a newspaper,
her boy to handle the sale,
the morning summer sun heating the concrete;
the glint of an Amtrak train veering into the station;
the boy shows off his produce,
grinning like a seasoned salesman,
but serious when he
points to some small, green colored peaches,
“these here are sour; I don’t like ‘em,
but I can sell ‘em to ya anyway if you like, sir,”
“No, I think I like that basket of plums over there for breakfast,”
The boy, nods, obediently,
“I can sell ‘em to ya if you like, sir”
and hands the green basket like an offering,
placing a peach in the mix for extra,
this act of kindness both part of the sale and a kind of measure of survival,
meeting his eyes just for a second,
broken blue and his hair a matte of red,
a nondescript cap nestled on his head;
he answers questions;
“yeah, we go from Alabama to Mississippi; just came from Chalmette,”
he says, politely answering the queries, as if they are expected, as if he is used to this
 line of questioning —

and I wonder where they are off to next, which town, and for how long —
and slightly envious that it isn’t me, selling those peaches and those plums,

a kind of gentle harmony, biting into the small, but full plum,
its redness firm and meaty; a good feeling to have so early in the morning,
to be a produce seller, to pass off such delicate fruit,
you have to be gentle, and courteous,
making sure you seem to be sharing instead of selling —
and trusting that you are making people happy, sated,
their tummies filled with juices, grown from the earth;
a romanticism is there, for sure;
forgetting the commercial exchange, it is as if one is just picking these peaches and
plums from where they came; hearing the pluck from the branch,
just as natural as giving a handsome tip


Poem: "When I woke up your eyes were on me"

When I woke up your eyes were on me,
like a gentle rush of waves,

as if you had been studying me this whole time,
my face an open book

(even though i was feigning sleep)

your eyes

set into the
palette of your familiar face,
your lips curved into a curious smile

and you blinked

and I yawned and complained, wishing I hadn’t  fallen asleep, but I had
done so


and then without a word you closed your eyes
and went to sleep again

and I, ever the paternal wannabe,
touched your back
and prayed you would be alright

and wished you were still awake

so the story could begin where we had
left off

our eyes leveled near one another,
lolling softly another to sleep,
bedtime stories fulfilled


Poem: "Regional Transit Authority"