13 November 2012

A Joke Restored

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?

Langston Hughes (1951)


I felt the outside air explode around me and I stood just beyond the door laughing with the sudden relief of the joke restored, looking back at the defiant old man in his long-billed cap and the confounded eyes of the crowd.  Rinehart, Rinehart, I thought, what kind of man is Rinehart?

I was still chuckling when, in the next block, I waited for the traffic lights near a group of men who stood on the corner passing a bottle of cheap wine between them as they discussed Clifton's murder.

"What we need is some guns," one of them said. "An eye for an eye."
"Hell yes, machine guns. Pass me the sneakypete, Muckleroy."
"Wasn't for that Sullivan Law this here New York wouldn't be nothing but a shooting gallery," another man said.
"Here's the sneakypete, and don't try to find no home in that bottle."
"It's the only home I got, Muckleroy. You want to take that away from me?"
"Man, drink up and pass the damn bottle."

I started around them, hearing one of them say, "What you saying, Mr. Rinehart, how's your hammer hanging?"

Even up here, I thought, beginning to hurry. "Heavy, man," I said, knowing the answer to that one, "very heavy." They laughed.

"Well, it'll be lighter by morning."

Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison, p 490, Vintage (1953)

No comments:

Post a Comment