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When It’s More Than Poetry

Langston Hughes

I’m glad to be reminded that April is Poetry Month.  I began to reflect on one of the first poems I heard that I could relate to and that moved me in an emotional and spiritual way.

Langston Hughes’ Mother to Son

When I was in elementary, particularly around Black History Month, several poems were read religiously.  This was one of them.  I never tired of it.  My great grandmother, Effie Beason, was alive then and the dialect portrayed in this poem so mirrored her.  I could just imagine her talking to her own son the same way.  She grew up a sharecropper in the deep South and knew firsthand who the Knight Riders were.  The first part of her life she lived in houses that were mere shacks – cold in the wintertime and hotbeds in the summer.  She was uneducated, uncomplicated, and uncomplaining.  My mother’s convinced that Grandma Effie’s heart was made of solid gold.

This poem makes me grateful to be living in the time I do now and thankful for my predecessors, like Grandma Effie, for making it all possible.

Mother to Son

Well, son, I’ll tell you:
Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
It’s had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor —
But all the time
I’se been a-climbin’ on,
And reachin’ landin’s,
And turnin’ corners,
And sometimes goin’ in the dark
Where there ain’t been no light.
So boy, don’t you turn back.
Don’t you set down on the steps
‘Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.
Don’t you fall now —
For I’se still goin’, honey,
I’se still climbin’,
And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.


2 thoughts on “When It’s More Than Poetry

  1. Langston Hughes, cries, dances, speaks, and moves our hearts and souls… One of the many intellects that has given birth to how my mind functions, in a world that requires many mental skills, if one is to be apart of the solution, rather than the problem!

    1. Love that. And you are right. You can just see and hear the sad sax, slow drum and the smoke-filled room where he probably worked out most of his material. It’s very real and earthy.

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