Sunday, September 4, 2011

Langston Hughes

The Death of the Bookstore

One of my favorite things to do is to peruse the bookstore with my Best Friend. We linger there for hours. I always order some coffee thing and she, iced tea and she will always ask me to share and then remind me why she hates coffee. "Tastes like dirt." will always be her reaction. They are all closing those giant mega mall of books. The days of sipping latte and reading a book you wont indulge in at home because $30 for a book you will just read parts of seems obscene are coming to an end, the end of an era. It's not just books, cds are obsolete with the invention of an ipod, with YouTube, with electronics changing our lives, making us just a little less social. I went to look for a Langston Hughes book of prose this morning and I found it on Amazon for $1, explains why borders would struggle to sell the same book for $15.

And while I do love my kindle, I also love the romance of a book. All my books have little notes on the pages, on the inside cover, little pieces of poems, something I was thinking at the time. And I save them, those worn books, the books I've read too many times to count. When I am feeling melancholy about life I want my old friend Pat Conroy to be on my bookshelf so I can read of men who wish for two lives. I have more Bukowski books than anyone should be allowed to own and depending on my moon I want to read his take on women, or shack jobs, or reading Tolstoy while working in the Los Angeles public library as a janitor. I want him at the end of my finger tips and to feel the pages beneath my fingers and my eyes, it's just comforting. Having those old books close is comforting like having church on Sunday morning and coming home to the scrambled eggs and black currant tea. It's comforting like old photo albums and calling my Best Friend to see what she is reading which I will do in a few moments.

As for the Langston Hughes poem I was looking for?

Droning a drowsy syncopated tune,
Rocking back and forth to a mellow croon,
I heard a Negro play.
Down on Lenox Avenue the other night
By the pale dull pallor of an old gas light
He did a lazy sway . . .
He did a lazy sway . . .
To the tune o' those Weary Blues.
With his ebony hands on each ivory key
He made that poor piano moan with melody.
O Blues!
Swaying to and fro on his rickety stool
He played that sad raggy tune like a musical fool.
Sweet Blues!
Coming from a black man's soul.
O Blues!
In a deep song voice with a melancholy tone
I heard that Negro sing, that old piano moan--
"Ain't got nobody in all this world,
Ain't got nobody but ma self.
I's gwine to quit ma frownin'
And put ma troubles on the shelf."

Thump, thump, thump, went his foot on the floor.
He played a few chords then he sang some more--
"I got the Weary Blues
And I can't be satisfied.
Got the Weary Blues
And can't be satisfied--
I ain't happy no mo'
And I wish that I had died."
And far into the night he crooned that tune.
The stars went out and so did the moon.
The singer stopped playing and went to bed
While the Weary Blues echoed through his head.
He slept like a rock or a man that's dead.


That poem is so beautiful it is a work of art, it's a song, it's pure art. Hughes was related to the first black man to ever hold a public office. You can find his prose of I wonder as I wander at Amazon for $1. I purchased a copy today and will be here soon. I like the idea of wandering with him a little during an autumn afternoon while leaves are flying, so I am preparing for that.

Here's a little taste of the joy of his work:

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