African American Poetry (1870-1928): A Digital Anthology

Langston Hughes, "The South" (1926)

The lazy, laughing South
With blood on its mouth.
The sunny-faced South,
   Idiot-brained .
The child-minded South
Scratching in the dead fire's ashes
For a Negro's bones.
   Cotton and the moon,
   Warmth, earth, warmth,
   The sky, the sun, the stars,
   The magnolia-scented South.
Beautiful, like a woman,
Seductive as a dark-eyed whore,
   Passionate, cruel,
   Honey-lipped, syphilitic----
   That is the South.
And I, who am black, would love her
But she spits in my face.
And I, who am black,
Would give her many rare gifts
But she turns her back upon me.
   So now I seek the North----
   The cold-faced North,
   For she, they say,
   Is a kinder mistress,
And in her house my children
May escape the spell of the South.

Published in The Weary Blues, 1926

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