poet Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes

#6 on top 500 poets

Brass Spittoons

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!

Poem Submitted: Saturday, March 27, 2010

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Comments about Brass Spittoons by Langston Hughes

  • Ratnakar Mandlik (6/18/2020 11:27:00 PM)

    Harsh realities of life faced by the downtrodden and their pathetic condition revealed. Worthy of modern poem of the day

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  • Luis Estable (6/18/2020 4:02:00 PM)

    I like the rhythm of many of Langston Hughes poems. They read like some kind of good- sounding song. This one tells of a life that is very much with the black experience.

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  • Mahtab BangaleeMahtab Bangalee (6/18/2020 10:49:00 AM)

    Clean
    Have to clean
    Indoor to outdoor
    Ground to sky
    Boy to girl
    Child to old
    Brothel to prayer place
    Summer to winter

    Clean
    Have to clean......

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  • Dr Tony BrahminDr Tony Brahmin (6/18/2020 3:30:00 AM)

    House rent to pay.
    Gin on Saturday,
    Church on Sunday.
    My God!
    Babies and gin and church.. very good poem. tony

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  • Michael WalkerMichael Walker (11/17/2019 9:53:00 PM)

    This is the way in which white masters spoke to their negro servants, addressing them as 'boy'. It is also the
    superior tone of the masters' speech. The poem succeeds as satire or protest. The negro's life is not very inspiring-
    buy shoes, pay rent, a nickel, a dime. The last line is an insult to a negro.

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  • Lee BoueriLee Boueri (11/17/2019 4:32:00 PM)

    A time in history before smoking laws, before the civil rights movement. Chewing tobacco shared social acceptability with cigarettes. Black people were kept subjugated struggling to make ends meet. Working in society's lowest paid jobs, living below the poverty line, treated with contempt. Self medicating with alcohol to cope. Raised to thank the Lord for his good graces. White men thought they were gods. This piece says it all without saying any of it. Beautifully crafted.

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  • Mahtab BangaleeMahtab Bangalee (11/17/2019 4:09:00 AM)

    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...// penned beautifully

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  • Kingsley EgbukoleKingsley Egbukole (11/17/2019 2:09:00 AM)

    Every job is dignified in a way as long as you legitimately earn your living from it. Beautiful one.

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  • Edward Kofi LouisEdward Kofi Louis (11/17/2019 1:16:00 AM)

    Buy shoes for the baby and polish them.

    Thanks for sharing this poem with us.

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  • Tom Allport (12/24/2016 11:45:00 AM)

    because of spittoons some of us live to day, so hold your heads high....... we deserve it

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  • Margaret O DriscollMargaret O Driscoll (2/9/2016 5:33:00 PM)

    I get from this piece that no matter how lowly the task is the worker takes pride in doing the job well

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  • Kim BarneyKim Barney (11/18/2014 2:33:00 AM)

    Once again Poem Hunter has used the previous year's poem of the day on November 18 as this year's poem of the day on November 18.
    Why can't they actually read and choose some of the newer poems?

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  • Aftab Alam KhursheedAftab Alam Khursheed (11/18/2014 1:07:00 AM)

    I just love Langston Hughes - my favourite

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  • Claude H Oliver Ii (11/18/2013 1:20:00 PM)

    Life at society's bottom rung - cleaning the residue of those more fortunate. One man's garbage can be another one's gold or certainly his livelihood.

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