The South

by Langston Hughes

The lazy, laughing South
With blood on its mouth;
The sunny-faced South,
The child-minded South
Scratching in the dead fire’s ashes
For a Negro’s bones.
          Cotton and the moon,
          Warmth, earth, warmth,
          The sky, the sun, the stars,
          The magnolia-scented South;
Beautiful, like a woman,
Seductive as a dark-eyed whore,
          Passionate, cruel,
          Honey-lipped, syphilitic —
          That is the South.
And I, who am black, would love her
But she spits in my face;
And I, who am black,
Would give her many rare gifts
But she turns her back upon me;
          So now I seek the North —
          The cold-faced North,
          For she, they say,
          Is a kinder mistress,
And in her house my children
May escape the spell of the South.

From Crisis magazine, June 1922.