Three poems by Gwendolyn Brooks, from the collection The Essential Gwendolyn Brooks, ed. Elizabeth Alexander (2005), and one from the collection To Disembark (1981).
Abortions will not let you forget.
You remember the children you got that you did not get,
The damp small pulps with a little or with no hair,
The singers and workers that never handled the air.
You will never neglect or beat
Them, or silence or buy with a sweet.
You will never wind up the sucking-thumb
Or scuttle off ghosts that come.
You will never leave them, controlling your luscious sigh,
Return for a snack of them, with gobbling mother-eye.
I have heard in the voices of the wind the voices of my dim killed children.
I have contracted. I have eased
My dim dears at the breasts they could never suck.
I have said, Sweets, if I sinned, if I seized
And your lives from your unfinished reach,
If I stole your births and your names,
Your straight baby tears and your games,
Your stilted or lovely loves, your tumults, your marriages, aches, and your deaths,
If I poisoned the beginnings of your breaths,
Believe that even in my deliberateness I was not deliberate.
Though why should I whine,
Whine that the crime was other than mine?—
Since anyhow you are dead.
Or rather, or instead,
You were never made.
But that too, I am afraid,
Is faulty: oh, what shall I say, how is the truth to be said?
You were born, you had body, you died.
It is just that you never giggled or planned or cried.
Believe me, I loved you all.
Believe me, I knew you, though faintly, and I loved, I loved you
Original source: A Street in Bronzeville (1945). Also in The Essential Gwendolyn Brooks, ed. Elizabeth Alexander (2005)
“The Crazy Woman
I shall not sing a May song.
A May song should be gay.
I’ll wait until November
And sing a song of gray.
I’ll wait until November.
That is the time for me.
I’ll go out in the frosty dark
And sing most terribly.
And all the little people
Will stare at me and say,
“That is the Crazy Woman
Who would not sing in May.”
Original source: The Bean Eaters (1960). Also in The Essential Gwendolyn Brooks, ed. Elizabeth Alexander (2005)
“The Second Sermon on the Warpland
This is the urgency: Live!
and have your blooming in the noise of the whirlwind.
Salve salvage in the spin.
Endorse the splendor splashes;
stylize the flawed utility;
prop a malign or failing light–
but know the whirlwind is our commonwealth.
Not the easy man, who rides above them all,
not the jumbo brigand,
not the pet bird of poets, that sweetest sonnet,
shall straddle the whirlwind.
All about are the cold places,
all about are the pushmen and jeopardy, theft–
all about are the stormers and scramblers, but
what must our Season be, which starts from Fear?
Live and go out.
medicate the whirlwind.
cracks into furious flower. Lifts its face
all unashamed. And sways in wicked grace.
Whose half-black hands assemble oranges
is tom-tom hearted
(goes in bearing oranges and boom).
And there are bells for orphans–
and red and shriek and sheen.
A garbageman is dignified
as any diplomat.
Big Bessie’s feet hurt like nobody’s business,
but she stands–bigly–under the unruly scrutiny, stands in the wild weed.
In the wild weed
she is a citizen,
and is a moment of highest quality; admirable.
It is lonesome, yes. For we are the last of the loud.
Conduct your blooming in the noise and whip of the whirlwind.”
Original source: In the Mecca (1968). Also in The Essential Gwendolyn Brooks, ed. Elizabeth Alexander (2005)
I call for you cultivation of strength in the dark.
in the vertigo cold.
in the hot paralysis.
Under the wolves and coyotes of particular silences.
Where it is dry.
Where it is dry.
I call for you
cultivation of victory
long blows that you want to give and blows you are going to get.
what wants to crumble you down, to sicken
you. I call for you
cultivation of strength to heal and enhance
in the non-cheering dark,
in the many many mornings-after;
in the chalk and choke.”
Original Source: To Disembark (1981)