Poem: Gwendolyn Brooks, ‘My Dreams, My Works, Must Wait Till After Hell’

I hold my honey and I store my bread
In little jars and cabinets of my will.
I label clearly, and each latch and lid
I bid, Be firm till I return from hell.
I am very hungry. I am incomplete.
And none can give me any word but Wait,
The puny light. I keep my eyes pointed in;
Hoping that, when the devil days of my hurt
Drag out to their last dregs and I resume
On such legs as are left me, in such heart
As I can manage, remember to go home,
My taste will not have turned insensitive
To honey and bread old purity could love.

Gwendolyn Brooks was the first African American poet to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1950. She published more than 20 books of poetry.

Poem: Gwendolyn Brooks, ‘Rites for Cousin Vit’

‘Rites for Cousin Vit’

Carried her unprotesting out the door
Kicked back the casket-stand. But it can’t hold her,
That stuff and satin aiming to enfold her,
The lid’s contrition nor the bolts before.
Oh oh. Too much. Too much. Even now, surmise,
She rises in sunshine. There she goes
Back to the bars she knew and the repose
In love-rooms and the things in people’s eyes.
Too vital and too squeaking. Must emerge.
Even now, she does the snake-hips with a hiss,
Slaps the bad wine across her shantung, talks
Of pregnancy, guitars and bridgework, walks
In parks or alleys, comes haply on the verge
Of happiness, haply hysterics. Is.


Gwendolyn Brookes (1917 – 2000) was an African American poet who published over 20 books of poetry and won the Pulitzer Prize.

This sonnet is one of my all-time favourite poems.  I think it really demonstrates poetry’s ability to express thoughts and feelings that just can’t be as well expressed through any other medium.  By this I mean, it expresses Cousin Vit’s energy and the effect she had on other people in such a way that I don’t think any other kind of writing could contain her. Well, the poem doesn’t contain her, perhaps that’s the point; it sets her loose again.