Saturday, September 13, 2014

A Mother's Love

Gwendolyn Brooks' writing on motherhood is heart breaking in the poem "The Mother" and "The Last Quatrain of the Ballad of Emmett Till". In the mother she tells the story of children never born but unforgotten. Children loved but that have never taken a breath of their own. Her pain in the belief that her children had all existed and she'd chosen to end each and everyone of their lives. "You were born, you had body, you died" (Brooks 2877). She accepts that she believes a fetus is a child and yet she has done this more than once, she has ended the life of her children despite her love for them. "Believe me, I knew you, though faintly, and I loved, I loved you All." (Brooks 2877). This last line powerful, her use of the word 'All' capitalized to emphasize this has happened more than once and it will happen again, despite her true feelings. How could she do this? How could the narrator commit these acts repeatedly? How could she decide in her mind her willingness to commit them again? 

In "The Last Quatrain of the Ballad of Emmett Till" Brooks describes those moments, after it's over "after the murder, after the burial" (Brooks 2882). The stillness around everyone. This was hard for me to read. The last time I'd read about Emmett Till was in my senior year of high school in 2010. Immediately the images and feelings from the day we'd watched a PBS document on the incident flooded to the front of my mind. Angry people in the streets begging for justice, mothers crying holding their children close and the look of fear on peoples faces that something so awful could happen to someone so innocent, someone so young. When his face finally showed in the video, I will never forget that image. Brooks talks about mother's losing their children in both of these poems but the circumstances are very different. Emmett's mother is sorry, she is heart broken and she loved her child similar to that of the mother in the above poem but Emmett's mother did not chose this, her son was taken from her, stolen, and she loved him for longer. So is the connection of the mother in the poem "The Mother" comparable to the connection Emmett Till's mother had to her son? Should the two be compared? Should we even feel sorry for the mother that chose for her child to die when we compare that to the mother who's son was taken from her in such a brutal way?
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  1. Kayla, what a shocking image to see. I was really moved by the poem and history behind it. I find it so hard to believe that people can treat other people so brutally. And they got off scott free in their trial. It is such a dark period in American history.

    1. It is a dark moment in history, it's devastating. For a mother to lose a child is always something terrible but for Emmett Till's mother it's even more extreme. I don't even believe something like that can be empathized. There's no way, but the way Brook's writes about the mother and Emmett Till's mother almost makes them comparable. But can that be, can the two possibly be compared? A mother whose son was brutally murdered at such a young age, taken from her and beaten until he was no longer recognizable, and a mother that time after time again chose to take the lives of her children. To cut them short but she says she loved them despite having killed them. These are her words of course not my feelings, because the mother felt her actions were that, she believe she was killing her own children over and over again and yet she claims to have loved them, does she have that right? Does she have the right to mourn her dead children as Emmett Till's mother mourns her son. I don't know, I don't have any children of my own, nor do I want any but I don't think what the mother's going through even comes close to what Emmett Till's mother is going through.

  2. It might be really interesting to compare the picture of motherhood Brooks creates in "The Mother" to the one Bishop creates in "Filling Station"... This would be a great essay topic.