Tag Archives: Poems by Langston Hughes

Yes. I know. I know.

You’re going to think I don’t know what the fuck I’m talking about when I say I’ve been building web sites for myself since 1997.

However, I have managed to come upon yet another annoying glitch with the set-up of the Abstract Absurdity Productions website (I guess I’m just hellbent on embodying the “Absurdity” aspect of this project), that the WordPress “Happiness Engineers” assure me they can address within the next 24-48 hours.

Honestly. I am so fucking serious.

I’m, like: you’re kidding me, right??!!

Jesus.

So here I sit, on a rather chilly but very sunny Sunday, with all this web work to do and I yet again cannot do any of it.

So, what I did instead was sat at my kitchen table and tried to come up with some enormous reserves of will power to not write to this person that I said I wouldn’t write to anymore.

I was thinking of a poem by Langston Hughes that embodies everything I feel right now. But I couldn’t recall the actual poem, just one specific line from it. So I took down my ancient, brittle, dust-mite-ridden copy of Selected Poems by Langston Hughes (©1959 — but I haven’t actually owned the book since the year before I was born; I bought it in the mid-1970s).

And  when I opened to the Table of Contents, I discovered many little asterisks next to many of the poems, and I suddenly recalled that when I was 17, I was writing a one-person play and that the dialogue consisted of nothing but poems by Langston Hughes.

Don’t you find that really interesting? I kind of do. I remember that I worked really hard on it but that, eventually, I felt like I was in over my head and I gave up.

And as I opened the book to each poem that had an asterisk — lo! these 43 years later — it was so interesting to see that all the words came back to me, like they were etched in my brain.

And it was also really interesting to see the poems I had selected for the play. Because even though, when I’d re-read them today on the page and felt I had them memorized somewhere deep inside me, at first, I hadn’t recalled any of these poems. For instance, this extremely interesting one for my 17-year-old white self:

Ruby Brown

She was young and beautiful
And golden like the sunshine
That warmed her body.
And because she was colored
Mayville had no place to offer her,
Nor fuel for the clean flame of joy
That tried to burn within her soul.

One day,
Sitting on old Mrs. Latham’s back porch
Polishing the silver,
She asked herself two questions
And they ran something like this:
What can a colored girl do
On the money from a white woman’s kitchen?
And ain’t there any joy in this town?

Now the streets down by the river
Know more about this pretty Ruby Brown,
And the sinister shuttered houses of the bottoms
Hold a yellow girl
Seeking an answer to her questions.
The good church folk do not mention
Her name any more.

But the white men,
Habitués of the high shuttered houses,
Pay more money to her now
Than they ever did before,
When she worked in their kitchens.
(Langston Hughes)

Or how about this one:

To Artina

I will take your heart.
I will take your soul out of your body
As though I were God.
I will not be satisfied
With the touch of your hand
Nor the sweet of your lips alone.
I will take your heart for mine.
I will take your soul.
I will be God when it comes to you.
(Langston Hughes)

I don’t know, I found that just really interesting. Apparently, when I was 17 I was already exactly how I am now — the things that matter to me, I mean. They still move me, they still matter.

And then I even recalled vividly that the opening to my play was this poem (and I still think it makes a great opening for a one-person play):

Harlem Night Song

Come,
Let us roam the night together
Singing.

I love you.

Across
The Harlem roof-tops
Moon is shining.
Night sky is blue.
Stars are great drops
Of golden dew.

Down the street
A band is playing.

I love you.

Come,
Let us roam the night together
Singing.
(Langston Hughes)

Well, perhaps I’ll work on that play again sometime. I probably won’t be in over my head anymore.  And I did indeed find the poem I was actually looking for — hard to believe it’s a poem retrieved from my wee bonny 17-year-old girlhood. I leave you with it, gang!

Beale Street

The dream is vague
And all confused
With dice and women
And jazz and booze.

The dream is vague
Without a name,
Yet warm and wavering
And sharp as flame.

The loss
Of the dream
Leaves nothing
The same.
(Langston Hughes)

Langston Hughes; 1901-1967