Langston Hughes: Selected Poetry

The Poet

Christ in Alabama

Christ is a nigger,
Beaten and black:
Oh, bare your back!

Mary is His mother:
Mammy of the South,
Silence your mouth.

God is His father:
White Master above
Grant Him your love.

Most holy bastard
Of the bleeding mouth,
    Nigger Christ
    On the cross
    Of the South.

Advertisement for the Waldorf-Astoria

Fine living . . . à la carte??
     Come to the Waldorf-Astoria!

Look! See what Vanity Fair says about the
     new Waldorf-Astoria:

     "All the luxuries of private home. . . ."
Now, won't that be charming when the last flop-house
     has turned you down this winter?
"It is far beyond anything hitherto attempted in the hotel
     world. . . ." It cost twenty-eight million dollars. The fa-
     mous Oscar Tschirky is in charge of banqueting.
     Alexandre Gastaud is chef. It will be a distinguished
     background for society.
So when you've no place else to go, homeless and hungry
     ones, choose the Waldorf as a background for your rags--
(Or do you still consider the subway after midnight good

Take a room at the new Waldorf, you down-and-outers--
     sleepers in charity's flop-houses where God pulls a
     long face, and you have to pray to get a bed.
They serve swell board at the Waldorf-Astoria. Look at the menu, will 


Have luncheon there this afternoon, all you jobless.
     Why not?
Dine with some of the men and women who got rich off of
     your labor, who clip coupons with clean white fingers
     because your hands dug coal, drilled stone, sewed gar-
     ments, poured steel to let other people draw dividends
     and live easy.
(Or haven't you had enough yet of the soup-lines and the bit-
     ter bread of charity?)
Walk through Peacock Alley tonight before dinner, and get
     warm, anyway. You've got nothing else to do.
All you families put out in the street:
    Apartments in the towers are only $10,000 a year.
	(Three rooms and two baths.) Move in there until
	times get good, and you can do better. $10,000 and $1.00
	are about the same to you, aren't they?
    Who cares about money with a wife and kids homeless, and
	nobody in the family working? Wouldn't a duplex
	high above the street be grand, with a view of the rich-
	est city in the world at your nose?
    "A lease, if you prefer, or an arrangement terminable at will."

Oh, Lawd. I done forgot Harlem!
Say, you colored folks, hungry a long time in 135th Street——
    they got swell music at the Waldorf-Astoria. It sure is a 
    mighty nice place to shake hips in, too. There's dancing
    after supper in a big warm room. It's cold as hell
    on Lenox Avenue. All you've had all day is a cup of 
    coffee. Your pawnshop overcoat's a ragged banner on
    your hungry frame. You know, downtown folks are just
    crazy about Paul RObeson! Maybe they'll like you, too,
    black mob from Harlme. Drop in at the Waldorf this
    afternoon for tea. Stay to dinner. Give Park Avenue a
    lot of darkie color——free for nothing! Ask the Junior
    Leaguers to sing a spiritual for you. They probably
    know 'em better than you do——and their lips won't be
    so chapped with cold after they step out of their closed 
    cars in the undercover driveways.
	Hallelujah! Undercover driveways!
	Ma soul's a witness for de Waldorf-Astoria!
(A thousand nigger section-hands keep the roadbeds smooth,
    so investments in railroads pay ladies with diamond
    necklaces staring at Sert murals.)
  	Thank God A-mighty!
(And a million niggers bend their backs on rubber planta-
    tions, for rich behinds to ride on thick tires to the
    Theatre Guild tonight.)
	Ma soul's a witness!
(And here we stand, shivering in the cold, in Harlem.)
        Glory be to God——
 	De Waldorf-Astoria's open!

So get proud and rare back; everybody! The new Waldorf-Astoria's
(Special siding for private cars from the railroad yards.)
    You ain't been there yet?
(A thousand miles of carpet and a million bathrooms.)
    Whats the matter?
You haven't seen the ads in the papers? Didn't you get a card?
    Don't you know they specialize in American cooking?
    Ankle on down to 49th Street at Park Avenue. Get up
    off that subway bench tonight with the evening POST
    for cover! Come on out o' that flop-house! Stop shivering
    your guts out all day on street corners under the El.
Jesus, ain't you tired yet?

Hail Mary, Mother of God!
    the new Christ child of the Revolution's about to be
(Kick hard, red baby, in the bitter womb of the mob.)
Somebody, put an ad in Vanity Fair quick!
Call Oscar of the Waldorf——for Christ's sake!!
    It's almost Christmas, and that little girl——turned whore
    because her belly was too hungry to stand it anymore——
    wants a nice clean bed for the Immaculate Conception.
Listen, Mary, Mother of God, wrap your new born babe in
    the red flag of Revolution: the Waldorf-Astoria's the
    best manger we've got. For reservations: Telephone EL.

Pennsylvania Station

The Pennsylvania Station in New York
Is like some vast basilica of old
That towers above the terror of the dark
As bulwark and protection to the soul.
Now people who are hurrying alone
And those who come in crowds from far away
Pass through this great concourse of steel and stone
To trains, or else from trains out into day.
And as in great basilicas of old
The search was ever for a dream of God,
So here the search is still within each soul
Some seed to find to root in earthly so,
Some seed to find that sprouts a holy tree
To glorify the earth——and you——and me.


Great mob that knows no fear——
Come here!
And raise your hand
Against this man
Of iron and steel and gold
Who's bought and sold
Each one——
For the last thousand years,
Come here,
Great mob that has no fear,
And tear him limb from limb,
Split his golden throat
Ear to ear,
And end his time forever,
This year——
Great mob that knows no fear.


In the days of the broken cubes of Picasso
And in the days of the broken songs of the young men
A little too drunk to sing
And the young women
A little too unsure of love to love——
I met on the boulevards of Paris
An African from Senegal

Knows why the French
Amuse themselves bringing to Paris
Negroes from Senegal.

It's the old game of the boss and the bossed,
       boss and the bossed,
       worked and working,
Behind the cubes of black and white,
           black and white,
    black and white

But since it is the old game,
For fun
They give him the three old prostitutes of
Liberty, Equality, Fraternity——
And all three of 'em sick
In spite of the tax to the government
And the legal houses
And the doctors
And the Marseillaise.

Of course, the young African from Senegal
Carries back from Paris
A little more disease
To spread among the black girls in the palm huts.
He brings them as a gift
From light to darkness
From the boss to the bossed
From the game of black and white
From the city of the broken cubes of Picaso

Poet to Patron

What right has anyone to say
That I
Must throw out pieces of my heart
For pay?

For bread that helps to make
My heart beat true,
I must sell myself
To you?

A factory shift's better,
A week's meagre pay,
Than a perfumed not asking:
What poems today?

Hey-Hey Blues

I can HEY of water
Same as I can HEY-HEY on beer.
HEY on water
Same as I can HEY-HEY on beer.
But if you gimme good corn whisky
I can HEY-HEY-HEY——and cheer!

If you can whip de blues, boy,
Then whip 'em all night long.
Boy if you can whip de blues,
Then whip 'em all night long.
Just play 'em perfesser,
Till you don't know right from wrong.

While you play 'em,
I will sing 'em, too.
And while you play 'em,
I'll sing 'em, too.
I don't care how you play 'em
I'll keep right up with you.

Cause I can HEY on water,
I said HEY-HEY on beer——
HEY on water
And HEY-HEY on beer——
But gimme good corn whisky
And I'll HEY-HEY-HEY——and cheer!


Love Again Blues

My life ain't nothin'
But a lot o'Gawd-knows-what.
I say my life ain't nothin'
But a lot o'Gawd-know-what.
Just one thing after 'nother
Added to de trouble that i got.

When I got you I
Thought I had an angel-chile.
When I got you 
Thought I had an angel-chile.
You turned out to be a devil
That mighty ngih drove me wild!

Tell me, tell me,
What makes love such an ache and pain?
Tell me what makes
Love such an ache and pain?
It takes you and it breaks you——
But you got to love again.

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