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?
Hope deferred makes the heart sick, But when the desire comes, it is a tree of life.
You know how, when you’re a kid, you dream of being something or doing something particular? And maybe you believe it’s possible just because that’s what kids do.
Then you grow up, and you forget the dream because it was just a childish whim. Or you remember the dream, and you laugh because it really was silly. Or you chase the dream with all you have, because the vivid, bright beauty of it never faded with age (this being the ideal, of course).
Or you make the dream smaller and squeeze it into your ordinary life. Now it’s dull and dust-covered. Or you bury it alive, and it’s dying away.
I have this dream that’s been part of me as long as I can remember. I’ve never forgotten it. I’ve never laughed at it, never. But it feels too big for me. I’ve been afraid to hope for it, afraid to desire it.
I heard someone say once that the phrase “hope deferred” from the Proverbs doesn’t mean your hopes have been dashed by people or circumstances. Instead, it’s when you and I defer (delay, postpone) our own hope that our hearts become sick. The difference seems subtle at first, but it’s rather profound. When we choose to put off hope … well, nothing good comes from it.
I wonder if that’s how Hughes meant it, too, when he spoke of a deferred dream. This beautiful fragrant thing, like fresh ripe fruit, that when we leave aside for too long, it rots.
And have you ever noticed how dreams and hopes go hand-in-hand? They’re like sisters, or fraternal twins. Hopes (desires) and dreams.
What is your hope, your dream? What have you done with it?