Study Guide

good times Stanza 1

By Lucille Clifton

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Stanza 1

Lines 1-2

my daddy has paid the rent
and the insurance man is gone

  • Well that's a good thing—getting the rent paid. It sounds like the speaker is telling us her story from a child's perspective since she says "my daddy," so we can already anticipate that we won't be seeing anything overly complicated in this poem.
  • By line 2 the insurance man is gone, too, so it looks like tougher times are finally on their way out. Maybe before this, things were looking pretty bad, what with worrying about paying the bills and all of those stressful things. But now, things are looking up.
  • We can also assume that money isn't so easy to come by in this family. If there's any uncertainty about the rent being paid or having insurance, we know that the speaker's family must be having some financial difficulties. A roof over her head isn't something she takes for granted. 
  • Notice, too, that the speaker says "the insurance man" which gives us more reason to suspect that this is a kid talking. Kids don't usually know insurance men by name.

Lines 3-5

and the lights is back on
and my uncle brud has hit
for one dollar straight

  • Yeah, yeah, we can hear our grammar experts out there saying, hey, it should read, "the lights are back on" to match our subject-verb agreement rules. But guess what? Our speaker doesn't give a hoot about those rules. This is the way she talks. Deal with it. 
  • The poet is writing in dialect here, matching the speaker's voice to the time and culture she's looking to capture. Clifton wrote a lot about the African American experience and often chose to capture that experience in the way it actually sounded to her. So proper grammar rules don't apply. 
  • Those lights are back on because dad paid the bills. And to top things off, uncle brud looks like he's playing Black Jack (the word "hit" is a Black Jack term). 
  • Uncle brud gets a proper name here, too, which makes the poem sound a bit more personalized from the speaker's perspective.
  • A name makes her uncle sound more lifelike and makes us think this is definitely a kid talking. When you're a kid you usually always refer to aunts and uncles with their first name, like Aunt Sally, Uncle Pete, etc.
  • Uncle brud is winning too since he's hit for "one dollar straight." That may not sound like a lot of money, but that's kind of the point. Winning is winning, no matter if it's a dollar or a hundred dollars. And when money is hard to get, a dollar can go a long way.
  • Also, we get the feeling that the speaker is really trying to emphasize good times in the context of simple pleasures—the stuff we might take for granted, like having the time to play a game. There's no need for a hundred dollars here—one dollar works just fine.
  • Finally, there's some consonance going on in lines 4-5 with "straight" and "hit." Even the rhyme is subtle, nothing too perfect or fancy. Check out "Sound Check" for more.

Lines 6-8

and they is good times
good times
good times

  • The end of the first stanza sums it all up for us: "they is good times." All those details we've just gleaned come together to make for a good time. And notice these are all simple things: rent paid, insurance man gone, Black Jack. Nothing too fancy or extraordinary here.
  • But that's the point of all of this. Sometimes ordinary things are really the extraordinary things that we often take for granted.
  • It's all a matter of perspective. Some people only expect extraordinary things to constitute "good times," while others appreciate the simple things just as much. And when you're not in a position to take things like the rent being paid and having electricity for granted, good times are all the more important. 
  • "good times" is a refrain that the speaker repeats. Maybe she wants to make sure that we take a moment to remember those good times of our own without burdening us with too many of her own personal memories. 
  • Take a sec to think about your own good times in order to get a better appreciation of what's going on here.

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