Mother to Son
Well, son, I’ll tell you:
Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
It’s had tacks in it,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor—
But all the time
I’se been a-climbin’ on,
And reachin’ landin’s,
And turnin’ corners,
And sometimes goin’ in the dark
Where there ain’t been no light.
So, boy, don’t you turn back.
Don’t you set down on the steps.
‘Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.
Don’t you fall now—
For I’se still goin’, honey,
I’se still climbin’,
And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
The first thing I really like about this poem is the structure. It kind of mirrors a crystal stair. Life, as the mother states, has never been a kind, giving experience for her. It feels like the top of the poem is the top of the staircase. It’s shorter, broken, bare. She never really experienced the fine nature of the upstairs community.
The poem, as for its meaning, really hearkens to the progress of the African american race. Striving for significance in society the mother, the birth agent of the son, urges the sun to not turn back. To not set down. To not fall now.
The poem, while it is from a different viewpoint, reminds me of the Antin work about her immigrant father. They both develop a sense in putting the present’s hopes in the future; Antin’s father with his children, and the mother figure in the Hughes piece with the Son figure.