by Gwendolyn Brooks
The obstacles of daily life are in direct opposition to dreams in this poem, and frankly, they seem a lot more powerful. In this poem, if dreams are the mom-and-pop diner (tasty as it may be), then the day-to-day stuff is the mega restaurant chain (think Mickey-D's). As much as dreams might be welcome, even desired, by the people living in the kitchenettes, the daily drudgery is hard to get away from. So the images Brooks creates for the day-to-day stuff are solid, concrete, real, inelegant, but easy to imagine. Let's sniff some out and see if anything looks familiar:
- Lines 4-5:Who's hungry? The smell of onion fumes is definitely pungent. If you've ever chopped onions and had tears streaming down your face, then you can attest to that. Brooks chooses to use "fumes" rather than "smell" to highlight their intensity. Fried potatoes are also distinct. There are few Americans who couldn't identify the smell of French fries or home fries cooking. So while Brooks may be creating imagery that's hard to see, she's engaging one of our most powerful senses: scent. And since scent and taste are so closely related, it's almost as if you can taste the onion and potato as you're reading this poem.
- Line 6: Brooks is still engaging our sense of smell. Unfortunately, this example stinks. (You know what we mean—it's a good example, but it smells really nasty.) Rotting garbage is another pungent scent. Brooks is creating a vivid scent picture. By now, we're practically holding our noses.
- Lines 12-13: These final lines create a picture of day-to-day life by engaging two of our senses: sight and touch. We can see the fifth person exiting the bathroom, which also makes us envision the chaos of a home where person after person is parading out of the bathroom. We hope none of you is claustrophobic! We can also imagine what lukewarm water feels like—after five uses (assuming that's what Number Five refers to). That's not a piping hot shower to soothe your weary muscles; it's something you rush into and spend just enough time to get clean (if that's even possible). The imagery Brooks creates to illustrate everyday life may not be pretty, but it's the real deal, rendered in gritty detail.