By Gwendolyn Brooks
Maud went to college.
Sadie stayed at home.
Sadie scraped life
With a fine-tooth comb.
She didn’t leave a tangle in.
Her comb found every strand.
Sadie was one of the livingest chits
In all the land.
Sadie bore two babies
Under her maiden name.
Maud and Ma and Papa
Nearly died of shame.
When Sadie said her last so-long
Her girls struck out from home.
(Sadie had left as heritage
Her fine-tooth comb.)
Maud, who went to college,
Is a thin brown mouse.
She is living all alone
In this old house.
Gwendolyn Brooks, “Sadie and Maud” from Selected Poems. Reprinted by consent of Brooks Permissions.
Source: Selected Poems (Harper & Row, 1963)
Gwendolyn Brooks was born in Topeka, Kansas, though she spent most of her life on Chicago’s south side, whose Bronzeville neighborhood she memorialized in her poetry. She received the Pulitzer Prize — the first African American so honored — for Annie Allen in 1950. At age 68 Brooks was the first black woman appointed Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress. Later she served as Poet Laureate of Illinois, personally funding literary award ceremonies and visiting grade schools, colleges, universities, prisons, hospitals, and drug rehabilitation centers. She was devoted to encouraging young people to write.
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Back Up Quick They’re Hippies
That was the year we drove
into the commune in Cornwall.
“Jesus Jim,” mam said,
“back up quick they’re hippies.”
Through the car window,
tents, row after row, flaps open,
long-haired men and women
curled around each other like babies
and the babies themselves
wandered naked across the grass.
In the warmth of night I put feet to my plan: waited
for my brothers to sleep. They’d spent the day
sharpening their hooks, repairing the great net,
filling gourds with fresh water. They’d bundled
taro wrapped in leaves sitting below the cross seats.