One of the books I included and totally love is Langston’s Train Ride, by Robert Burleigh, illustrated by Leonard Jenkins. The fantastic illustrations make this book a complete pleasure to peruse, no doubt about that. But the reader will also enjoy being taken along on a journey with Langston Hughes as a young man. As he rides on a train across the country, he is moved by the crossing over the Mississippi River. Words and phrases rush into his head, especially the phrase, “I’ve known rivers,” which he jots down on an envelope.
My thoughts roam. Suddenly, I feel the history of my people flowing right up to this moment to ME. Yes, I feel I’ve lived other lives on those muddy riverbanks. Somehow, somewhere, I’ve heard the dusky waters of all those rivers lapping and singing. It’s true, it’s true. I’ve known rivers.Read and listen to the poem “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” at Poets.org. The Poetry Friday round-up is hosted by AmoXcalli. And don’t forget to check out my two-part piece on picture books for Black History Month over at ForeWord and comment with other picture book suggestions for the month.
I keep the envelope flat on my lap. I’m madly scribbling words down now, rapidly one after another. (Poems are like rainbows, don’t you think? They escape if you’re not quick!) I turn my head to get one last look at the sun-tinged Mississippi. Going, going, gone. I scrawl the last line:
My soul has grown deep like the rivers.
And the poem is done.