A few weeks ago, I felt a ghost crawl into bed with me, and I somehow had the impression this ghost had been an actor. Since we’re only friendly with one actor–a female–I assumed that’s who it was. But a perusal of the internet and the obituaries revealed that she is, thankfully, very far from dead.
A few days later, I found myself at a funeral. As is the custom these days, people took turns standing up to tell stories about the deceased.
I learned that this person had been very happy, because he had been offered a small role in a movie, and he’d always wanted to be an actor. So I am pretty sure that it was him, as he had died the afternoon before my experience and if you’re going to see the dead, the first few hours after they die is among the most likely times.
This leads me to one of my favorite subjects, which is–you guessed it (or maybe didn’t)–poetry. Why? Because poems touch us energetically, in the places within us where the richness of life unfolds, as well as the connection to death.
As I stood by our friend’s graveside, poems kept running through my mind.
So it’s not too surprising that the last time I was in the hospital, Whitley and I found ourselves hungry for poetry, and my bedside table was heaped with anthologies.
I remember another time when this happened. It was in a subway car in New York City, and among the ads along the ceiling for deodorants, razor blades and English lessons, there were some posters with poetry on them. People were standing and reading one of the poems, and some of them were even crying, which, to me, shows just how fundamental the hunger for poetry really is.
The poem that was making them weep was by Langston Hughes. It is called "Mother to Son," and it goes like this:
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 poem always reminds me of how challenging it is to live life, and yet how beautiful it all is, even the hard parts.
You can get this and so much more of this brilliant poet’s work in his Collected Poems. Get it at your local bookstore or onlne.