Langston Hughes, 1902 – 1967
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?
Why is Langston Hughes’s poetic prowess in this rhetorical quest to decipher the end of poorly developed or intentionally hampered dreams so enticing?
Were we not aware then as we are now that a dream deferred, a dream ignored, a dream erased, and a dream transformed into a nightmare subsists and barely exists as anxieties under which we are ruled?
Are these not the new authorities that guide our steps and our emotions to the penitentiary of destitution of all hope? Is not a dream deferred the equal of a meal misplaced, a payment deviated from our account, love rejected?
Is not a dream deferred the culmination of anxiety and depression, the twin sisters of misery, playing a dirty, dirty trick on us? Incarnate now in the frontal lobe and later in the metaphysical center of the soul?
Do dreams dry up? Of course.
Can they fester? As does gangrene.
Whence do they run? Away from us, assuredly, as quickly as they can, with or without legs.
Are they as odoriferous as rotten meat? Dreams have no scent as we understand the term but if a deferred dream were to release an odor I am sure it would reek of death. Dreams die too, you know. And deaths stinks.
Can it crust over with sweet enrichment, delivering to the dashed dreamer a pleasant sense of freedom from the responsibility of accomplishing this said dream? No. God no. It is bitter, without the slightest tinge of sweetness.
Will it sag with time, gravity working it below our feet, the feet of the grave, below that yet, under the feet of our planet and slip out on the other side of our spherical abode into the nether world?
Yes, yes. A dream deferred slips into the abyss never to be found again. A deferred dream once dead has less hope of recovery than souls trapped in the mythical purgatory.
Does a deferred dream explode?
Lest we fall back into ignorance we must admit, yes, it does, not as a renewed hope or aspirations from which we derive existential fulfillment but as deprivation of all joy and avaricious which consumes all hope.
A deferred dream is found in the life of the day-to-day moribund worker whose sole purpose is to work and make money and vacation and work again than in the man or woman whose improvised explosive device is close to razing a building to the ground.
A terrorist is a terrorist not because of a dream deferred but because of a malicious dream. Nightmares insatiably malignant transformed in the mind of a dreamer turned killer by sheer indoctrination.
But the standard person whose dream is deferred, delayed, paused or made stagnant by whatever causal ill is more dangerous than the terror of fire, gun powder, and time.
This is because the standard soul who lives dreamless or with a dream unfulfilled believes that this realm of loss of hope is acceptable and normative.
When dreamless souls accept this reality then our world becomes a place where dreams are born only to die shortly after their first breath.
Does it explode?
Yes, yes, it does, but the explosion is moderate, genteel, working its way out of the heart and into the mind, erasing all passion and drive. Ebbing the coolness of hopelessness from one wealth of life, the heart, to another treasure of life, the mind, destroying not with fire but with deference, the future of the soul.
And to the rhetorical questions asked by Langston Hudges, we must admit that one of them, perhaps, intentionally or unintentionally we do not know, is left unasked: what happened to my dream?
This question is one we dare not ask nor do we venture on spending enough time digesting it to muster an answer for it.
For it is more pleasurable to delve into the abstract deferred dreams of others than to confront the concretized reality of our prorogued aspirations.
What happened to my dream?