Brass Spittoons

By Langston Hughes 1902–1967 Langston Hughes
Clean the spittoons, boy.
      Detroit,   
      Chicago,   
      Atlantic City,
      Palm Beach.
Clean the spittoons.
The steam in hotel kitchens,
And the smoke in hotel lobbies,
And the slime in hotel spittoons:
Part of my life.   
      Hey, boy!   
      A nickel,   
      A dime,   
      A dollar,
Two dollars a day.
      Hey, boy!   
      A nickel,   
      A dime,   
      A dollar,   
      Two dollars
Buy shoes for the baby.
House rent to pay.
Gin on Saturday,
Church on Sunday.
      My God!
Babies and gin and church
And women and Sunday
All mixed with dimes and
Dollars and clean spittoons
And house rent to pay.
      Hey, boy!
A bright bowl of brass is beautiful to the Lord.   
Bright polished brass like the cymbals
Of King David’s dancers,
Like the wine cups of Solomon.
      Hey, boy!
A clean spittoon on the altar of the Lord.
A clean bright spittoon all newly polished—
At least I can offer that.
      Com’mere, boy!

Langston Hughes, “Brass Spittoons” from Collected Poems. Copyright © 1994 by The Estate of Langston Hughes. Reprinted with the permission of Harold Ober Associates Incorporated.

Source: Collected Poems (Vintage Books, 1994)

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Poet Langston Hughes 1902–1967

SCHOOL / PERIOD Harlem Renaissance

Subjects Social Commentaries, Race & Ethnicity, Activities, Home Life, Class, Relationships, Money & Economics, Jobs & Working

Holidays Labor Day

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Langston  Hughes

Biography

Langston Hughes was first recognized as an important literary figure during the 1920s, a period known as the "Harlem Renaissance" because of the number of emerging black writers. Du Bose Heyward wrote in the New York Herald Tribune in 1926: "Langston Hughes, although only twenty-four years old, is already conspicuous in the group of Negro intellectuals who are dignifying Harlem with a genuine art life. . . . It is, however, as . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Social Commentaries, Race & Ethnicity, Activities, Home Life, Class, Relationships, Money & Economics, Jobs & Working

SCHOOL / PERIOD Harlem Renaissance

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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