An Expansion Upon (And, As Such, A Disservice To) Langston Hughes “Suicide’s Note”

Mom-Mom cleaned and dried me with a kitchen towel,
Like I was a damn butter dish,
Once I popped out ‘round dusk one day
(My mother’s waters broke, then she crossed them)
And she Sunday-school sing-sang all about the light,
But I found this world all whispers and shadows,
(Hazy grays cast by the tenement buildings and church steeples)
People talking around me and maybe about me,
But never to me as such, and at some point it seemed
That only the greasy old Bronx had some sense in its hiss and burble
(It said to me Child, you cannot carry over me
Until you give yourself to the water fully, unabashedly, unashamedly.


22 thoughts on “An Expansion Upon (And, As Such, A Disservice To) Langston Hughes “Suicide’s Note”

  1. Before reading this, I had to read Langston Hughes poem, “Suicide’s note” in order to put it into context. Well, as it turned out, that didn’t require very much of my time. It’s a short poem. A very, very, very short poem.

    I think that what you’re doing here is adding on the child’s birth, and then his baptism, the baptism being in the river, and, subsequently, his suicide, as well.

    Am I right?


  2. I do not like to say “Yes, that’s right” or “No, that’s wrong” when I’m responding to a comment on something I’ve posted, because I believe (and I am in no way joking when I say this) that just because you write something, you don’t get to say what it means. That said, there’s a lotta water in this poem, and it ain’t there by accident.

      1. It’s a bit of a tightrope job–you try to lead or suggest, but I’m leery of telling someone whose cultural background and/or life experiences may be worlds different than mine that what they take from a piece I wrote just isn’t right. Even I am not quite that arrogant.

          1. Or, to put it more poetically—-

            I’ve really got to vent.

            I bet the rent.

            Some bet on horses.

            I bet on verses.

            Can a poem finish Win, Place or Show?

            I don’t know.

            You might tell me to get lost,

            But I made the bet with Robert Frost!


  3. I like it, wk. I especially like the line, (My mother’s waters broke, then she crossed them)

    Time passes with lightning-speed in this poem in which a little baby turns into a man who is a fly on a dirty Bronx wall, but who may or may not save himself by reconstituting amniotic fluid.

    There Glen. I hope that helps.

  4. This poem has everything one might wish for in American literature – the voice, the scene, the vernacular and the theme.
    I have reread it several times and it keeps giving.

  5. most certainly no disservice done here! Much like Hughes’ cutting Note and echoing Kerry’s comment above, there is much to be unravelled here and it’ll strike different chords with different reads. For my take, the water key, broken and hidden by mother dearest and drowned out with songs of light, and yet it must be embraced in all its sludgy sinful humanity to cross the grotty bronx. Fine writing

  6. my younger son named after this poet, but not this pen. my elder son, though, speaks to those whispers and shadows – he quite literally went over the fence about 10 minutes ago, on his way to his friend’s house – and when the waters speak to me, I’m afraid he eavesdrops.

    because the water speaks. ~

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