I’ve been thinking about having a dinner party and trying to decide who to invite. It needs to be somewhat intimate, lively and entertaining. I wouldn’t generally have thought of a poet but I was recently reacquainted with Langston Hughes and I knew he had to be on the list.
There is no doubt he would have something to add to the after dinner conversation. Having written more than thirty-six books on topics ranging from poetry, fiction, humor, biographies, anthologies and books for young people, I think he could add to any discussion.
I would ask him first to recite this poem. “Still Here”
I’ve been scared and battered.
My hopes the wind done scattered.
Snow has friz me, sun has baked me.
Looks like between ’em
They done tried to make me
Stop laughin’, stop lovin, stop livin’ –
But I don’t care!
I’m still here!
I would ask Mr. Hughes to explain to all of us sitting around how this country feels to him now, in 2019 as compared to 1957 when he wrote that poem. How has America changed for the black man in sixty-two years? Does he still feel scared and battered? Are his hopes still scattered?
I can imagine hearing him saying that maybe the mood needs to be lightened a bit. His diction precise and his smile infectious. So he will recite something a bit more humorous.
Here I sit
With my shoes mismated.
It’s getting late and we have things to do tomorrow. So one last request of Mr. Hughes, please tell us a little about Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee. Tell us how you remember it.
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.
Of the dream
The evenings come to an end and we say our good nights. It’s been a good time and I regret it’s ending. Mr. Hughes puts on his coat to leave and I watch his face and wonder. What has really changed in the U S since this man was born 117 years ago? I hopes it’s a better place. Good night Langston.