I woke up in the middle of the night needing a sip of water. I walked down the hall, and as I passed through the dark sitting room, a sentence sprang to mind, or the beginning of a sentence — a phrase, a breath, a sound, a combination of sounds — a powerful suggestion, insistent, dreamlike, meaningful, profound, but I didn’t have the focus to pick up a pen and write it down, and tried instead to fix it in my memory, knowing as I did so that I was unlikely to succeed, and even smiling at the fact, for this same thing has happened many times before, and might be happening now, as I pick up my glass and hold it under the faucet, like a little boy at his favorite waterfall . . . who returns to bed soaked to the skin, with the ripe-aching bones of an old man soon in need of an epitaph . . .
The reading of Dostoevsky has slowed to a crawl, a page here, a page there, in the quiet afternoon, to make room for Arnold Rampersad’s The Life of Langston Hughes, the first volume of which was so fascinating and so well done that I couldn’t put it down, until I finished it yesterday evening. That the poet continued to smile, is perhaps the most amazing thing about him of all, for he had every good reason not to — some were self-made, it’s true; but being so earnest and vulnerable, the ignorance of American society, its prejudice and injustice, was such an outrage to his native poetic intelligence, that he could do nothing but live publicly, and in the most outspoken of ways. The first volume, too, is an excellent introduction to the Harlem Renaissance and the various personalities involved, the novels of which, if I’m still living, I plan to read after finishing with Hughes.
October 6, 2020
Long Gray Train (I Pay the Porter)
Long gray train
Brings my baby home.
She’s waiting on the platform,
This is the saddest day I’ve known.
I pay the porter well, for all the work he’s done.
I pay the porter well, just to hold her in my arms.
I pay the porter well, he knows that I’m alone.
And the porter says keep your dollar, son.
He says keep your worn out dollar,
It’s my job to get the heavy ones.
Keep your worn out dollar,
Because further on,
The heavier she
Songs and Letters, December 11, 2006
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Tags: Aging, Arnold Rampersad, Childhood, Death, Diaries, Dostoevsky, Dreams, Epitaphs, Ignorance, Injustice, Journals, Langston Hughes, Poems, Poetry, Prejudice, Reading, The American Civil War, The Harlem Renaissance, Trains, Waterfalls, Writing