I have a number of unfinished poems in my notebooks that I wish were in shareable condition. But they aren’t, so I can’t share them (yet). But there is a poem that is I want to share by Langston Hughes…two poems actually. I found these two poems in school library books many years ago. I made sure to add the anthologies I found them in to my bookshelf.
The first poem is from a collection called, “I Am The Darker Brother.” (The book is still in print. I highly recommend adding this to your collection!)
Me and the Mule
My old mule,
He’s got a grin on his face.
He’s been a mule so long,
He’s forgot about his race.
I’m like that old mule –
Black-and don’t give a damn!
You got to take me
Like I am.
This is a short, sweet, and to the point poem, but it has so much attitude it makes me smile every time I read or even think of it. If the mule is free to be his authentic self, why shouldn’t a black man enjoy the same liberty?
The second poem is more poignant. This poem can be found in a collection called, “American Negro Poetry.” I also recommend this collection for your bookshelf.
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 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.
This is a message that every parent has for their child: Do your best; Don’t give up; If I can do it, you can do it and do it better. You find in this piece that the mother may not have a great education – indicated by her broken english – but she pressed on in the hopes that her son would witness her efforts and follow her lead.
Langston Hughes was born in Joplin, Missouri on February 1, 1902. His full name was James Mercer Langston Hughes. He was one of several key figures of group of black writers called The Harlem Renaissance. Hughes died on May 22, 1967. Click the links to read more about Langston Hughes and the Harlem Renaissance.