Dream Variations

Dream Variations

by Langston Hughes

To fling my arms wide
In some place of the sun,
To whirl and to dance
Till the white day is done.
Then rest at cool evening
Beneath a tall tree
While night comes on gently,
Dark like me—
That is my dream!

To fling my arms wide
In the face of the sun,
Dance! Whirl! Whirl!
Till the quick day is done.
Rest at pale evening…
A tall, slim tree…
Night coming tenderly
Black like me.

I often wonder whether I know the true meaning of freedom when I’m encased in whiteness, when others’ first impressions of me neither reflects my culture nor who I am. But I think that, though Hughes was most likely referring to the sorrowful plight of the African-American, the poem might very well refer to me as well.

There have been so many times when all I’ve wanted to do is scream. The stress and the overwhelming desire to give up becomes so strong that I feel like I’m bursting from the inside out, like I’m filled with helium and, if I’m not held to the ground, I will somehow fly off in the far distance and return deflated and alone. “To fling my arms wide…” That’s what I’d rather do; to dance and whirl somewhere between sanity and madness, until the whiteness of hospital walls and sedating pills are done. Then, and only then, can the cool of night, that time when everyone sleeps and only I remain restless, come on gently as I fill page after page of writing the darkness that threatens to escape into society’s rigid, pale world.

“That is my dream!” To be able to give it all up (“fling my arms wide”) and face my responsibilities, my duties, the constricting expectations of functioning citizenship, and dance and whirl in their faces until all I do is write, write, write away my life, my sadness, my joys, my soul… then finally “rest at pale evening,” that place between doing and done, where night comes tenderly and I can finally understand the meaning of true freedom… “Black like me.”