I Still See the Ghost of Langston Hughes
On the steps of his grandmother’s housewhen I drive down Alabama Street.
This is his heaven—he can travel at will
to Cuba, Harlem and all his hometowns.
He visits his brother’s grave in Joplin.
In Lawrence he whispers to every writerto make music for everyday people.
Sometimes he takes the pen from my hand
and writes a line, then changes into a boy
vamping vaudeville walks on railroad ties.
Some nights I hear blues singerslike Lee McBee shout country sorrows
and relive Jimmy Reed tunes on electric guitar
or hear the Bopaphonics resort his lines
into hip-hop rounds of words without pause.
Or I sit on the library steps where he walkedholding his mother’s hand. I read books
with dog-eared pages and the touch
of other borrowers left in plies of the paper.
Sometimes I feel his boy’s rapt breath.
I go to movies in the same opera housewhere he saw silent films and traveling shows.
In autumn I hear football fans roar near his house
and feel the chill that penetrates every coat.
In summer the wind rises, awakens oak leaves,
and I hear his restless, restless feet—always ready to go.
from Ghost Stories of the New West (Topeka: Woodley, 2010)