Poetry Responses

Mother to Son
Langston Hughes

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'.
Aind life for me ain't been no crystal stair.

The first time I saw this poem was probably in the seventh or eighth grade. I am very familiar with it, and I have heard many people say that this poem is of some sort of inspiration. It's message is clear, life is not the most beautiful thing in the world. I have heard many people say that this poem should make the reader feel that they will live through life's struggle. They say that this poem is inspiring. I am not a "them" however. I am me, and I have never been the most normal of children. Rather, this poem serves on two fronts. It makes me think of my mother, who lived through many bleak times, and it also serves as a painful reminder to me of many things.

My mother, what a strong woman, and I do mean that. She struggled in her younger life. She lived in the tiny town of Gaylax, Va. She was one of those pretty girls who "grew up on the wrong side of the tracks". Her mother was a very uncaring and very unsupportive (insert word here), and she didn't have any real father, but rather, a few older men that stayed with her mom. She had to do everything on her own. Her mother didn't care about what she did, and almost found her as a burden. When mom became sick and stopped breathing, one of her friends had to take her to the hospital and her mom really didn't like paying the hospital bill. When mom was 15, her mother got mad at her because she wasn't married yet, and almost threw her out of the house. But mom worked, and she worked hard. On top of making great grade in high school, she also bought a Porshe with money she saved up by working, and lived the life she wanted to outside of home. But she could not go to college because she couldn't get a scholarship, and of course mother wasn't going to pay for anything. So what is she doing now with just a high school diploma and a few night courses at Queens College? She works for an insurance company and practically puts words in lawyers mouths, not bad? When I read this poem, I can see my mom's struggle.

However, I cannot see her giving this sort of discussion to me. That is part of the pain that resides in reading this. Hughes wants us to take heart in the words his mother says in the poem. However, I get easily discouraged. Always have, hopefully not but possibly always will to. Usually I don't give up, but I certainly go about life with a very hopeless air. I know life is no crystal stair, and even if it was, it would have more than it's fair share of cracks. Sometimes I find myself trying to live a dream though, and I can't see how life can possibly be anything other than a crystal stair. Unfortunately, in my dreams, it feels like I'm the only person that isn't walking on it.

Some parts of my life feel incredibly bare. For instance, these past two and a half weeks have felt bare. It felt like there was no light, the splinters were stabbing at me, the boards were torn up, there were tacks (well, screws actually, I have a hole in my hand to show for it), and everything was very bare. And when the floor has no carpet, it generally gets very cold. That's what this past while has felt like, cold. It seemed like no one cared about my situation, but how could they? I didn't really tell anyone that things were upset. I guess that I've separated myself from everyone for so long that everyone thinks that I do that all the time just for fun. Some people think I'm just a cold person, but I don't want to or mean to be, things have just been very hard for me since school started and I had a wreck on the second day of school.

I did not follow the advice the Mother gave. I sat down, I gave up, I felt terrible and embraced my depression. I went off the deep end more than once. I begged for help but never asked anyone for it. Life was very topsy-turvy. Some people saw that I wasn't being my usual self, but either they thought I'd work myself out of it just like all of the other times, or they just had no clue what to do. I was feeling very feeble, but suddenly I have strength again. I don't know where it came from. I think two places. Firstly, me starting to get sick of being so upset, and secondly, the fact that my parents bought me a car this weekend. The main reason I was so upset was because I felt that I had everything taken away from me (the wreck wasn't my fault), and that there was some odd fate that made it so that I deserved everything I was getting.

Well, this poem still doesn't make me feel too good. I think of my mother, yes. It's great that she got through her younger years, but I don't know if it's made her a better person. She is sometimes way too interested for her own good, and sometimes she just flat out doesn't care. Very odd. This poem also reminds me of bad times in the past and in the nearly present, which isn't fun. And then there is the moral that I can't relate to. When times are tough, keep climbing. Yet when I try, it seems like life only gets a little better to make me feel happy until the next terrible thing can hurt me that much more. In closing, if my mom gave me a mother to son talk, I probably wouldn't take much advice she gave me to heart. Sometimes we really don't relate. So for now, I'll just have to climb up my old, creaky, and wobbly wooden stair alone, walking with very unsure footing.

Take one step back and read some good poetry.

If you have low expectations, go here and be happy.