This isn't just any old love, Shmoopers. It's Beale Street love.
Yep. We realize we just gave you a one-word quote. But it's the perfect word, you have to admit. What's key here is that this word sets the tone for a very different poem than the one we end up reading. We're expecting romance, but we're met with violence.
Is a brown man's fist (2)
Our speaker comes right out and tells us that Beale Street love is a fist, and it's ready to do some major harm. It's a surprising metaphor, and it begs the question. Is the fist figurative? Or is the speaker arguing that on Beale Street, love is physically violent?
With hard knuckles (3)
As if the fist of love weren't tough enough already, the speaker has to go and give it hard knuckles. He is really hammering his point home; love is rough, tough. It's no picnic. But what is it that makes this love so tough? Is it the everyday struggle of life on Beale Street, the typical pangs of being in love? Or is it something more sinister, more violent?
Crushing the lips, Blackening the eyes (4-5)
Black eyes, busted lips. This fist means business, and not in a good way. Of course, this could have a more figurative meaning, too. Maybe no one is being hit. Maybe it's just referring to the emotional punch that love can pack. Love may be a fist, but that also means that <em>the fist is love</em>. We'll leave you to ponder that for a moment.
Hit me again, Says Clorinda. (6-7)
These lines walk the line between literal and figurative, just as much as the earlier lines of the poem. On the one hand, we might read this as the woman wanting more love, no matter how emotionally painful it might be. On the other hand, we might read it as a battered woman speaking to her abuser. She's either complicit in her own abuse, or she is defiantly challenging the man who hits her. We're tossing the baton to you, awesome readers: how do you read these lines?