by Zoe Abedon

I have seen dreams deferred.
I have watched them drowned in
waves, breaking and scattering,
to be forgotten in the swash lines.
I have seen them in tiered contours
around collapsed-crescent lips
and in jags of rotting teeth.

I first saw a dream-deferred underneath a bench.
Missing toe, gray fingers,
numbed eyes, tumbleweed hair.
Lying on a blanket,
in a feeble, brown coat,
shards of beer bottles,
pressed cruelly into the side of his face.
Under his chin was an oval necklace
with fragments of glass
where a picture should have been,
as if he was still waiting for someone
worthy enough to rest framed
next to his heart.

I have seen dreams deferred in ashes.
The wooden carcass of
the house next door, wheezing
as the wind pushes on its black bones.
Our neighbor kneeling
in the brown grass, dirt-stained blanket
pressed around her shoulders,
until familiar hands pull her away from the
scarred lot where her life once stood.
And I just stared from the window,
helplessly safe from the furious gray smoke.

Then,
everything was white: silent,
deathly white like the stomach
of a dead animal facing a hollow sky.
My aunt’s skin was white
in the hospital sheets.
The shriveled white hands of her baby boy
were bloodless and his purple-veined,
saran-wrap eyelids
never opened to see the white light
pulsing on his pale head.
It was all so brilliantly colorless
that it hurt my eyes.
And my aunt’s dream billowed
like deep breaths on a cold night,
disappearing into the white stars,
empty and cold to an unreachable place.

To Langston: Ode to All the Dreams Deferred
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