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Our readers write from Florida

The Super Power of a Heroine

By Enedina C. Birk
Orange Technical College, Winter Park Campus, Winter Park, Florida

There are several types of heroes, whether fictional or real, but what intrigues us most is who these heroes are and what makes them what they are. Not always is a hero 100% good, sometimes not quite brave, but what distinguishes a hero is the impact he or she can make on someone's life, whether with an attitude or a word.

I know a heroine called "mother." A mother, who in difficult moments, puts the weariness aside to love me. Even when she was sad, she made me feel happy. Sometimes she was stressed with the weight of everything, but always, the next day, she would get strong again and ready for a new battle. I am proud to have this heroine in my life. She is my mother.

Our readers write from California

(Editor's note: Many thanks to tutor Janet Felker for sending us several writing entries from her student, Janice Bowens. Janet and Janice are with the Sonoma County Adult Literacy Project.)

As part of poetry month in April, Janice Bowens read the poems of Langston Hughes (1902-1967), an American poet, novelist, playwright and social activist. Janice wrote her reactions to the poems - she interpreted what Langston Hughes might have felt when he wrote a certain poem and she responded with her own experiences and feelings.

Lullaby for a Black Mother
by Langston Hughes

My little dark baby,
My little earth-thing,
My little love-one,
What shall I sing
For your lullaby?
A necklace of stars
Winding the night.
My little black baby,
My dark body's baby,
What shall I sing
For your lullaby?
Great diamond moon,
Kissing the night.
Oh, little dark baby,
Night black baby,
Stars, stars,
Night stars,
For your sleep-song lullaby.
Response by Janice Bowens
From the south, self-educated
Black gay man in the south
It's a death wish
He is reminiscing of the lack
Of motherly love, not being
Able to hold onto memories
That weren't there, looking and
Wondering how that must feel
To hear the heart beat
To have that warm embrace
To share that special bond
To hear mother sing sweet
Lullabies, and wonder how
Would that feel like to be as
Dark as the night, to wish upon
Those starry nights, to look above
And wonder why? That I've
Never heard that lovely and
Sweet lullaby. So thank you
Stars and thank you moon,
You made me strong, to speak
Of the truth. I'll always love you
From the midnight skies, that those
Stars, and moon always
Shined so bright over
All the dark babies in the
Dark lullaby nights.

As I Grew Older
by Langston Hughes

It was a long time ago.
I have almost forgotten my dream.
But it was there then,
In front of me,
Bright like a sun-
My dream.
And then the wall rose,
Rose slowly,
Between me and my dream.
Rose until it touched the sky-
The wall.
I am black.
I lie down in the shadow.
No longer the light of my dream before me,
Above me.
Only the thick wall.
Only the shadow.
My hands!
My dark hands!
Break through the wall!
Find my dream!
Help me to shatter this darkness,
To smash this night,
To break this shadow
Into a thousand lights of sun,
Into a thousand whirling dreams
Of sun!
Response by Janice Bowens
I can feel that old spirit calling, saying I too had that dream also, but I just put it away. I had to grow up too fast, leaving my childhood dreams behind. Also growing up to deal with this grown-up world, always too afraid of saying something wrong, keeping it deep inside, the old saying "sit down and shut-up." I did what I was told, being quiet as a mouse, locking away all my dreams, swallowing them. I'm choking. Trying to get air, feeling that I'm going to pass out or even die.
What happened to my dreams, what happened to me? I can't see anything. I feel so invisible, always putting my dreams away. I'm choking here. I'm drowning here. I can't find some kind of lifeline. My dreams were to reach the sky, to soar above the clouds, to fly free the wind under my wings, but you caught me, and you did the most heinous thing to me, you cut my wings, you broke my heart and my spirit. I came tumbling to this cold, cold world. You just laughed at my sorrow, and pain. I just wanted to fly just a little while. I was going to come back. I've taken myself from this dark world. I always kept my word. You've taken me for granted. The light of the stars and my own sun. I've taken back my hope, I've taken back my dreams, but most of all these things, I've given back your damned dreams.

Quiet Girl
by Langston Hughes

I would liken you
To a night without stars
Were it not for your eyes.
I would liken you
To a sleep without dreams
Were it not for your songs.
Response by Janice Bowens
Always said your eyes are the world into one's soul. I've looked in your eyes and I lose myself, so hard for me to come back, so hard to find oneself, so hard to let go. I sit and day dream about how the night is going to be without the stars in the sky at night. Is the moon so ashamed, that you keep me up all night, having no shame, you keep on playing that silly game of hide-an-seek. Sometimes you do cheat, but I don't care. I'll let you win always. You have taken the very best part of my heart, to turn it into the memories and the melody of love. Can I dream of dreams? Can I sing you my song? Will it touch your heart that can turn to gold? I hope it will, because my love for you is ever so very real. So, I'll close my eyes to open my mind, to find a place that's yours and mine.