putting things away...

from my anthology of must read (a)merican poems

Gwendolyn Brooks

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.


Selecting one Gwendolyn Brooks’ poem is mostly impossible because of the depth of her work. But, I settle into “The Bean Eaters” in easy fashion – mainly because of the richness of the piece as a love poem. The lines point toward a future that has dissolved aloneness: “Two who are Mostly Good. / Two who have lived their day”. They go about their lives, always moving in the same direction.

This is also a beautiful poem about memory, about aging. The “twinklings and twinges” that are the real stuff of living a full life – and are all the more significant because they are shared. This pair is busy at work – nurturing love, taking in the necessary source and basis of life that will allow them to continue. Happiness finds itself in the intimate simplicity of chipware, creaking wood, and tin.

Brooks ends the poem with a detailed setting: a rented room, a room the couple have made into home – filled with the reality that is theirs alone. Beads, receipts, cloths, tobacco, fringes. A momentary glimpse at the full possibility of life.


poet with a day job said...

Sam - Brooks has such a fine craft - I lvoe the way she uses rhythm and rhyme without placing the poem in a formal setting - it's free verse built to her own "form." I just love it - makes you read it in a certain way. I'd never read this one before - it is terrific, thanks for sharing.

I have a recording of her reading "We Real Cool" and of course she's a great reader to match the rhythm she creates with her breaks and spaces and rhymes.

Also - thanks for your comment on my poem - I really appreciate it coming from you! that one is an older poem, and I'd been working on it for a while. It fell off the radar though, because I wasn't sure how I felt about it, so I posted it as a trial by fire test. Seems like the various reads have helped me gain a fresh perspective, so now I think I can futz with it again.

Generally, the "poems" I post on my blogs are early ideas - the blogs are my playground to get me writing...

Thanks for reading!

Collin said...

"Two who are Mostly Good"

such a great line. I've also got that recording of Gwendolyn readingn "We Real Cool," which is one of my fave poems.

Thanks for posting this one, Sam.