Poems Used in 8th Grade Poetry Lesson

Harlem (A Dream Deferred)

by Langston Hughes

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?

It’s Hot in the City

by Peter West

White light glares on car rails, cobbles,
Swirling dust and scraps of paper
Stirred by baked enamel autos.
Shirt-sleeved drivers, forearms upright
Sickly-sweet, warm, wafted smells—from
Joe’s Place and the Lucky Garden—
Mingling, bring no invitation

Lolling dogs droop in dead doorways.
Children seek the soiled and struggling
Patch of earthy grass between the
Bus stop and the supermarket;
Lining up to bow and gasp in
Turn at the delicious shock of
Water gushing from the fountain.

Damp, red men and moist, pale women
Feel the grilling sidewalks reach up,
Suck vitality through shoe soles
Down toward the earth’s hot center.
Old folk, wise, released from tension,
Rock, or fan themselves on porches.

But
Nobody hurries.

Friday: and man flies, gasping
From what he has made
Out, off and away
To the cool wood,
The sweet turf
Or the limpid lake—
To breathe. . .

It’s HOT in the city.

On a Night of Snow

by Elizabeth Coatsworth

Cat, if you go outdoors you must walk in the snow.
You will come back with little white shoes on your feet,
Little white slippers of snow that have heels of sleet.
Stay by the fire, my Cat. Lie still, do not go.
See how the flames are leaping and hissing low.
I will bring you a saucer of milk like a marguerite,(1)
So white and so smooth, so spherical and so sweet.
Stay with me, Cat. Outdoors the wild winds blow.

Outdoors the wild winds blow, Mistress, and dark in the night.
Strange voices cry in the trees, intoning strange lore,
And more than cats move, lit by our eyes’ green light,
On silent feet where the meadow grasses hang hoar(2)—
Mistress, there are portents(3) abroad of magic and might,
And things that are yet to be done. Open the door!

Glossary:

(1)flower

(2)frost

(3)omens; things that foreshadow coming events