What I Didn’t Know When I Met Langston Hughes

{by Iris Arenson-Fuller from Vision Powered Coaching Visitors Center}


Before I truly knew all living things were kin
or that there was a larger menu of sexual preferences
than was served up in my family’s small vinyl papered
kitchen with the orioles and jays staring at my soup

Before I heard the first ugly name on my father’s lips
after the neighbors scurried like tattling roaches
when they saw me riding in a rusted old car
with six boys and I cried hard from the stinging words
a blue bruise painted in a bad dream by
Smokin Joe Frazier’s powerful fist

Before I knew about toddlers in the ER at St. Vincent’s
whose limbs were mistaken for bacon strips and
burned in frying pans in kitchens where they should
have been eating freshly baked cookies

Before I ever heard of Matthew Shepard, alone and
shivering in the cold, beaten, tied to a fence,
whispering why into the brutal Wyoming wind

Before I heard of napalm burns or Gulf War Syndrome,
of veterans who believed in their country, fighting
demons under city bridges, talking to themselves

Before I grew up and out of a life that was bright and
textured like velvet, the nap never stroked in the wrong
direction but wrapped around me, warming me with
promises of poetry and young love

Before my cave sanctuary turned into darkness where
I sat carving sad pictures of too many lost loved ones
or where I lay drenched in high-fevered sweats
unable to see a world that would be all right again

Before all of that I stood up, left foot asleep, limping across
a high school auditorium, pleated skirt, crisp white blouse,
high heels, ears with hoop earrings listening to loud claps,
tongues clucking with sincere pity for the pretty girl
they thought was crippled and about to receive a poetry
award from Mr. Langston Hughes

Before that, I was pre-me and thought him merely
a rambling old man who foretold great joy and suffering,
extracting a shy promise that I would not stop writing
even if the pain of life took hold of my throat and choked me
Four years later, he was dead and I still didn’t know
what I didn’t know when I met Langston Hughes.

Iris Arenson-Fuller is a life coach and a writer.
Follow her on Twitter.

Subscribe to her blog.
Pick by Story Editor – Amy Turn Sharp// @amyturnsharp

Comments Closed

13 Comments to “What I Didn’t Know When I Met Langston Hughes”

  1. Amy Turn Sharp

    I love poems that stop me. Make me spin.

  2. What I Didn’t Know When I Met Langston Hughes http://goo.gl/fb/OgPpq

  3. This is just…I’m speechless. My fancy response words aren’t enough.
    Thank you!
    Heather of the EO recently posted..the view from here

  4. Thank you all for your lovely comments. I was indeed about 16 when I met L.H. Always wanted to write a poem about it, but didn’t till recently, a lifetime later.

    Am new to this publication, so don’t know if we need to submit items for the print edition separately or if selections from the on line edition also go into the print publication.

    If anyone can clarify I would appreciate. And now back to building some websites for my coaching work.
    I look forward to reading more Story Bleed.

  5. nancy rogers says:

    Wonderful and surprising.
    Thanks for the gift of this poem.

  6. Read every word. Twice. Remarkable poem by @coachiris. Langston Hughes would be proud. http://bit.ly/lfIgtk

  7. Deb Rox says:

    THIS> RT@StoryBleed What I Didn’t Know When I Met Langston Hughes from @coachiris. Striking poetry. http://ht.ly/5aTui #LGBT

  8. Mr Lady says:

    THIS> RT@StoryBleed What I Didn’t Know When I Met Langston Hughes from @coachiris. Striking poetry. http://ht.ly/5aTui #LGBT

  9. Sandra Diamond says:

    I imagine you needed to grow and endure life’s pain choking you before you were ready to write this wonderful accounting. Glad you followed his advice and continued writing

  10. deb says:

    absolutely wonderful.
    deb recently posted..in all the possibility

  11. Isabelle says:

    This is absolutely awesome!
    Isabelle recently posted..dog training