Wednesday, September 16, 2020


The Negro Speaks of Rivers

                          ( To W. E. B. DuBois )

I've known rivers:

I've known rivers ancient as the world and older than the

        flow of human blood in human beings.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.

I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.

I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.

I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln

           went down to New Orleans, and I've seen its muddy

           bosom turn all golden in the sunset.

I've known rivers:

Ancient, dusky rivers.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.


My old man's a white old man

And my old mother's black.

If ever I cursed my white old man

I take my curses back.

If ever I cursed my black old mother

And wished she were in hell,

I'm sorry for that evil wish

And now I wish her well.

My old man died in a fine big house.

My ma died in a shack.

I wonder where I'm gonna die,

Being neither white nor black?


I, too, sing America,

I am the darker brother.

They send me to eat in the kitchen

When company comes,

But I laugh,

And eat well

And grow strong.


I'll sit at the table

When company comes.

Nobody'll dare

Say to me,

"Eat in the kitchen,"



They'll see how beautiful I am

And be ashamed, —

I, too, am America.


We have tomorrow

Bright before us

Like a flame.


A night-gone thing,

A sun-down name.

And dawn-today

Broad arch above the road we came.

Langston Hughes
The Weary Blues
Knopf 1926

These poems come from Langston Hughes
100 years ago with his first book of poem
The Weary Blues
published by Knopf, a very young press
then, only ten years old, and recently
re-issued with its original 1926 book design
by Miguel Covarrubias.
Ever since George Floyd was murdered
we have sold out every book from our
little bookshop by Langston Hughes, and James Baldwin
and Toni Morrison and George Jackson and
Martin Luther King, and the Black Panthers,
and Malcom X and Audre Lorde and
Lucille Clifton and even MOVE
from dark burned streets of
Philadelphia rose up. A friend
of ours, who worked poetry in
the prisons back in the 80s-90s
told us then she couldn't find a
bookstore that carried any books 
by James Baldwin, and she searched
high and low. No more.