sick man looks at flowers

Brooks, Gwendolyn

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Annotated by:
Stanford, Ann Folwell
  • Date of entry: Jan-16-1998


This short poem, one of a series entitled "A Catch of Shy Fish," describes an old sick man whose life is "closing in" and who feels only pain ("mind is a little isle") until there enters "an impudence of red," flowers that, for him become a "ripe rebuke," a "burgeoning affluence" that "mocks [him] and "mocks the desert of my bed."


With remarkable economy (the poem has 7 lines), the speaker gets at the isolation and loneliness that pain causes and the difficulty of a sick (and presumably dying) person who is confronted with life and color. This poem would be useful paired with Sylvia Plath’s Tulips, a poem about an adult who is recovering from surgery and is angry when the isolation of her pain is jarred by a vase of red tulips. The question of caring for sick and recovering people (and their sometimes puzzling resentment) can be profitably discussed using these poems.


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The David Company

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