Read the following poems and then complete the tasks that follow:
Let America Be America Again
Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.
(America never was America to me.)
Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.
(It never was America to me.)
O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.
(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)
Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?
I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.
I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!
I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean—
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.
Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That’s made America the land it has become.
O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home—
For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
To build a “homeland of the free.”
Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we’ve dreamed
And all the songs we’ve sung
And all the hopes we’ve held
And all the flags we’ve hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay—
Except the dream that’s almost dead today.
O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine—the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME—
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.
Sure, call me any ugly name you choose—
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!
Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again!
Youtube Video: Copy & Paste the link to view the video.
The Loft Presents: Danez Smith “Let America Be America Again”
By Juan Felipe Herrera A dónde vamos where are we goingSpeak in English or the guard is going to comeA dónde vamos where are we goingSpeak in English or the guard is gonna get us hermanaPero qué hicimos but what did we doSpeak in English come onNomás sé unas pocas palabras I just know a few words You better figure it out hermana the guard is right thereSee the bus driver Tantos días y ni sabíamos para donde íbamosSo many days and we didn’t even know where we were headed I know where we’re goingWhere we always goTo some detention center to some fingerprinting hall or cubeSome warehouse warehouse after warehouse Pero ya nos investigaron ya cruzamos ya nos cacharonLos federales del bordo qué más quierenBut they already questioned us we already crossed over theyalready grabbed us the Border Patrol what more do they want We are on the bus nowthat is all A dónde vamos te digo salí desde HondurasNo hemos comido nada y dónde vamos a dormir Where are we going I am telling you I came from HondurasWe haven’t eaten anything and where are we going to sleep I don’t want to talk about it just tell themThat you came from nowhereI came from nowhereAnd we crossed the border from nowhereAnd now you and me and everybody else here isOn a bus to nowehere you got it? Pero por eso nos venimos para salir de la nadaBut that’s why we came to leave all that nothing behind When the bus stops there will be more nothingWe’re here hermana Y esas gentes quiénes sonno quieren que siga el camiónNo quieren que sigamosEstán bloqueando el busA dónde vamos ahoraThose people there who are theythey don’t want the bus to keep goingthey don’t want us to keep goingnow they are blocking the busso where do we go What? He tardado 47 días para llegar acá no fue fácil hermana45 días desde Honduras con los coyotes los que se — buenoya sabes lo que les hicieron a las chicas allí mero en frentede nosotros pero qué íbamos a hacer y los trenes los trenescómo diré hermana cientos denosotros como gallinas como topos en jaulas y verduraspudriendóse en los trenes de miles me oyes de miles y se resbalabande los techos y los desiertos de Arizona de Tajas sed y hambresed y hambre dos cosas sed y hambre día tras día hermanay ahora aquí en este camión y quién sabe a dóndevamos hermana fijate vengo desde Brownsville dónde nos amarrarony ahora en California pero todavía no entramos y todavía el bordoestá por delanteIt took me 47 days to get here it wasn’t easy hermana45 days from Honduras with the coyotes the ones that — wellyou know what they did to las chicasright there in front of us so what were we supposedto do and the trains the trains how can I tell you hermana hundredsof us like chickens like gophers in cages and vegetablesrotting on trains of thousands you hear me of thousands and they slidfrom the rooftops and the deserts of Arizona and Texas thirst and hungerthirst and hunger two things thirst and hunger day after day hermanaand now here on this bus of who-knows-where we are goinghermana listen I come from Brownsville where they tied us upand now in California but still we’re not inside and still the borderlies ahead of us I told you to speak in English even un poquitothe guard is going to think we are doing somethingpeople are screaming outsidethey want to push the bus back Pero para dónde le damos hermanapor eso me vinele quebraron las piernas a mi padrelas pandillas mataron a mi hijosolo quiero que estemos juntostantos años hermanaseparadosBut where do we go hermanathat’s why I came herethey broke my father’s legsgangs killed my sonI just want us to be togetherso many years hermanapulled apart What? Mi madre me dijo que lo más importantees la libertad la bondad y la buenas accionescon el prójimoMy mother told me that the most important thingis freedom kindness and doing goodfor others What are you talking about?I told you to be quiet La libertad viene desde muy adentroallí reside todo el dolor de todo el mundoel momento en que purguemos ese dolor de nuestras entrañasseremos libres y en ese momento tenemos quellenarnos de todo el dolor de todos los serespara liberarlos a ellos mismosFreedom comes from deep insideall the pain of the world lives therethe second we cleanse that pain from our gutswe shall be free and in that moment we have tofill ourselves up with all the pain of all beingsto free them — all of them The guard is coming well
now what maybe they’ll take usto another detention center we’ll eat we’ll have a floora blanket toilets water and each otherfor a while No somos nada y venimos de la nadapero esa nada lo es todo si la nutres de amorpor eso venceremosWe are nothing and we come from nothingbut that nothing is everything, if you feed it with lovethat is why we will triumph We are everything hermanaBecause we come from everything
Youtube Video: Copy & Paste the link to view the video
“Border Bus” – Juan Felipe Herrera
1. What do the two poems have in common?
2. What is different about them?
3. Are they poems that offer hope about the future or are they trying to say the American Dream is false hope?
Write your own poem on the American Dream. There are no guidelines other than making it at least 8 lines long. It doesn’t have to rhyme or follow any particular cadence. You will not be graded on it for your poetry skills, but rather just attempting to write a poem about the American Dream of at least 8 lines. Enjoy the creative process.
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