I was around 13 or so when I first read this poem by Langston Hughes. I remember thinking… wow, now there’s someone who’s telling me the truth about life!
Around this age is when childhood starts to end… innocence gives way to experience. It’s a sad thing if you think about it… the loss of innocence… having to come to terms with the black and gray areas of life. So many people lie to children—hoping to prolong the bitter sting of reality I suppose.
This poem gave me a lot of comfort during that time and ever since then when my life has gotten crazy and out of control.
At the age of 13 I marveled that Hughes had chosen the image of a crystal staircase. Why this image? Why not a vase or something… silly kid thoughts, right?
Now that I’m in adulthood I know that a crystal staircase is what makes a poet a poet and what transforms a good writer into a great writer.
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.
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