Poetry

Poetry Sunday: Gwendolyn Brooks’s ‘To Be in Love’

Though Pulitzer Prize winning poet Gwendolyn Brooks (1917-2000) is best known for her verses that describe city life and the experience of coming into womanhood in the predominately African-American neighborhood of Bronzeville, Chicago, ‘To Be in Love’ diverges somewhat from these themes. In addition to the above video, you can find the full text of the poem here.

The poem itself is a simple one because it captures love in its first moments when the feeling is all encompassing and untouched by shadow. It describes the awe of being one half of a partnership in which “you know you are tasting together/the winter, or a light spring weather.” The darkness comes later when something in the relationship shatters; the lovers are separated by distance, or difference and the “column of gold” of their love falls down “into the commonest ash.”

The poem reminds me to appreciate the power of purity in language. I am often drawn to poetry that is a little dark, that captures the contradictory nature of life. But the clean, clear feelings in life are important to capture too, and Brooks has done that exceptionally well in this poem.

To Be in Love by Gwendolyn Brooks


To be in love 
Is to touch with a lighter hand. 
In yourself you stretch, you are well. 
You look at things 
Through his eyes. 
A cardinal is red. 
A sky is blue. 
Suddenly you know he knows too. 
He is not there but 
You know you are tasting together 
The winter, or a light spring weather. 
His hand to take your hand is overmuch. 
Too much to bear. 
You cannot look in his eyes 
Because your pulse must not say 
What must not be said. 
When he 
Shuts a door- 
Is not there_ 
Your arms are water. 
And you are free 
With a ghastly freedom. 
You are the beautiful half 
Of a golden hurt. 
You remember and covet his mouth 
To touch, to whisper on. 
Oh when to declare 
Is certain Death! 
Oh when to apprize 
Is to mesmerize, 
To see fall down, the Column of Gold, 
Into the commonest ash.

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2 thoughts on “Poetry Sunday: Gwendolyn Brooks’s ‘To Be in Love’

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