Dreams Deferred and Trees of Life

I’ve been revisiting Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes‘ brief-but-powerful poem “Dream Deferred.” It evokes so much for me in this season, from marriage to eschatology to relationships to community. I’ll let it speak to you:

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?

Dreams need to be translated into fulfillment, into reality, before they simply die, or worse. Mr. Hughes echoes the proverbial wisdom “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but fulfilled longing is a tree of life.”

So to all my friends who are hurting and hoping: Here’s to sweet dreams, and the salty journeys that evoke our thirst for fulfillment–only in sugar and salt can we be parched enough to drink together of Life’s Common Tree!

This was originally posted on November 13, 2007. 

See also:

Tree of Life: A Poem

Dancing ‘Round the Tree of Life: Two Poems

Evolution and the Two Trees in the Garden

5 Responses to Dreams Deferred and Trees of Life

  1. brotherjohnny November 14, 2007 at 10:13 pm #

    I love that scripture.
    I suppose one way of turning it would read, “The Tree of Life is what fills the void of longing, healing the heart, turning hope deferred into hope fulfilled”.

    The Tree bears fruit, for eating. Life giving fruit…and the seeds…
    grow into more trees, bearing more fruit, producing more food, more seed…and the leaves are for the healing of the nations…

    Jesus Christ
    The same yesterday, today and forever…

  2. Peter K Bell November 19, 2007 at 9:20 pm #

    Right now I am in the midst of a “dream deferred”, affecting my work life and my “ministry” (church life) and home life too….

    It’s OK with me if this is just a ‘pruning’, since I’m kind of used to that kind of thing and it improves the fruit. But this one seems to be cutting right into the living branches and very destructive, very discouraging…

    Please pray for me to see this through. I have seen a few small victories lately and have an incredibly supportive and loving wife and family and church family. But this big “thing” is still right in the path and is very difficult…

    Thanks for your kindness and help, even though I have never “seen” most of you!


  3. brotherjohnny November 19, 2007 at 10:00 pm #

    I will.
    Keep your eyes on Jesus, brother.
    In Love

  4. zoecarnate November 20, 2007 at 4:55 pm #

    Thanks for the interaction, y’all! I love that passage too…as well as Hughes’ poem.

    Peter, I’m sorry to hear that dreams are churning. I will join with our Mutual Friend in trust that they’ll only intensify before the birthing!

  5. Kevin June 2, 2012 at 9:22 pm #

    We just watched The Great Debaters last night, in which Hughes is quoted liberally. The suffering in that movie puts a new spin his last word, explode.

    Thanks, Mike.

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