by Sterling Brown
The lucky listeners of the audience get a taste of the blues when Ma starts signing somewhere around the end of section 2. But the blues are more than just music here: they're solace, connection, and empathy. How so? Allow Shmoop:
- Line 24: Welp, isn't everyone just plain miserable in this poem? Yep, these folks have the blues. Bad.
- Line 25: Ma sings blues music, but her smiles tell us that she has the cure for the blues. Or that at least something good can come of them.
- Lines 35-38: The blues are all about turning your personal pain into music, but in this case, those personal pains are never specified. The ellipses at the end of the line leave this unresolved, but they also remind us that, though their pains may be different, these people all do share in the blues. They've all got pain, which means they've all got songs to sing.
- Line 41: Brown is using the lyrics of a real blues song here. In this case, we get an idea of some of the specific hardships these audience members endure: a flood. Singing this song provided a moment of connection for the guy in the audience who's repeating the lyrics here. The blues touched him, they just got a hold of him somehow.
- Lines 42-47: Usually a blues song repeats the first line twice then delivers a new line, but the fan has reduced the lyrics to the essentials, foregoing the repetitions to tell the story at the heart of the song. It's the hardship he's interested, and how the music has helped him rise above his own hardships.