Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
Now if you listen closely
I'll tell you what I know
- Aha. Now we're getting to the good stuff. We've followed the speaker through her own trials and troubles. We've seen how she relates those troubles to other folks who seem to have happier, better lives. And now we're about to get the big pay-off.
- Notice how our speaker has somehow morphed into an authority figure over the course of these past few stanzas? She's gone from your run-of-the-mill insomniac to a person we trust to change the most fundamental problems of our life.
- How in the world did this happen?
- Well, we're not totally sure. But we're betting that it has something to do with all of that repetition we mentioned earlier. If you repeat something often enough, chances are that your listeners will start to believe it. And our speaker's banking on precisely this phenomenon.
- But it looks like there's even more that she's about to reveal. Are you sitting on the edge of your chair?
Storm clouds are gathering
The wind is gonna blow
The race of man is suffering
And I can hear the moan,
- Wow. So nature (the clouds and the wind) is starting to participate in the turmoil of the human soul. What in the world is going on here?
- Option 1: It could be like that amazing children's book, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. You know, the one where the elements tend to mirror people's desires? In this case, we get storms and not food, but you get the general idea.
- Option 2: Angelou could also be tapping into a pretty Romantic tradition. (Just to be clear: we mean the literary period – Romantic with a big "R" – not the warm fuzzy hearts and love sort of romance.) For the Romantics, like Wordsworth and Tennyson, feelings could be described by aligning them with elements of the natural world. In other words, it's not storming outside because we're all unhappy. We see a storm and realize that it neatly mirrors our own rather crappy situation. It's a subtle difference, we know, but it's a pretty important one.
- Notice how Angelou's speaker is clearly establishing herself once again as the authority figure in this particular scenario? She's the one who's in tune with the problems and sufferings of man. But don't worry. We're about to hear the solution. After all, that's what she promises us right at the beginning of this stanza.
Can make it out here alone.
- Hey, wait a second! What happened to our solutions? We were promised solutions! And all we get is this refrain? C'mon. We've heard this one before!
- Whew. Now that we've got that out of our system, maybe we can talk about why this poem doesn't offer any solutions. After all, it's not a twelve-step program or a self-help manual. It's a poem. Deal with it.
- Maybe Angelou doesn't offer any specific answers because there aren't specific answers. People make friends in different ways. People define communities in different ways. You could have 2,078 Facebook friends and still be lonely. You could have 2.078 Facebook friends and feel surrounded by love. You could have a pet turtle and feel surrounded by love. Who are we to judge?
- However you define community (or, as this poem would say, a "home" for your soul), though, you need it. And you need it now.