Beale Street Love
by Langston Hughes
In a poem about a fist, a good amount of violent imagery is to be expected. But this poem also claims to be about love, so that violence has a whole other layer to it. That fist is doing some serious damage, but we can't forget that for our speaker, that fist is love. That's one doozy of an extended metaphor, so we hope you have your thinking caps at the ready.
- Line 2: Here is where the extended metaphor, or comparison, begins. This line tips us off that throughout the poem, love will be compared to this fist.
- Line 3: We can imagine that the reason why the speaker knows these knuckles are hard is because he or she has seen or felt the damage they can cause. But is he talking about a real fist? The detail of the hard knuckles sure makes us think he is, which throws a wrench into our metaphorical reading.
- Lines 4-5: In these lines, we get a violent verb and a body part. Lovely. Remember that it's not just literally a fist doing this, but also the emotion of love. Normally, when we think of what love does to our faces, we think of blushing cheeks, and puppy-dog eyes, not blackened eyes. Just what kind of love is he talking about here? It sure doesn't sound like any love we've heard about.
- Line 6: We're not sure what Clorinda means when she says to hit her again, but we know it's violent. Though we have no absolute way to tell that she's not just sincerely asking to be hit again for some twisted reason, we guess that this is either a provocation, a warning of consequences to follow the hit, or a cry of absolute surrender and resignation to a painful fate. Regardless of how you read it, it's a harrowing, horrifying line.