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Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Bean Eaters by Gwendolyn Brooks

I love hearing Gwendolyn Brooks reading "We Real Cool" because she does it in her own way, a way I never imagined when I first came upon that poem in high school English. Too many of us did not get to hear that poem being read in high school, and far too many didn't read another poem by Brooks because "We Real Cool" was the only one they ever put into our textbooks (it sounds like she was pretty sick of reading it too). Perhaps that's changed since the 70s; I hope so.

The Bean Eaters

They eat beans mostly, this old yellow pair.
Dinner is a casual affair.
Plain chipware on a plain and creaking wood,
Tin flatware.

Two who are Mostly Good.
Two who have lived their day,
But keep on putting on their clothes
And putting things away.

And remembering ...
Remembering with twinklings and twinges,
As they lean over the beans in their rented back room that
      is full of beads and receipts and dolls and cloths,
      tobacco crumbs, vases and fringes.


Sandy Longhorn said...

One of my favorite Brooks poems! Thx!

Martha Silano said...

You're welcome, Sandy. I keep re-reading to figure out how she does it - evoke a cozy yet oppressive mood. It reminds me of a poem in this month's APR by Jericho Brown, "N'em."

Sandy Longhorn said...

As they say, "God is in the details," right?

I'll look up JB's poem. Thanks for the recommendation. (I let go my APR subscription in favor a few smaller journals this past year.)

Martha Silano said...

Dear Sandy,

Yeah, God's in the details, for sure. It's always good to be reminded.

I must take a minute away from my detail research (!) to put in a plug for APR. I abandoned it in utter frustration in the 90s (what WAS that stuff they were publishing?) but it has totally changed in the last few years. I noticed it first when they started pubbing Perillo, but it just kept getting better from there. Now I read it from cover to cover every month. They're prose pieces are quite amazing, too. Am just finishing up a hilarious article that compares Tony Hoagland to the Boss in The Office. How often does literary crit make you laugh?