Thinking of Elizabeth Steinberg

Brooks, Gwendolyn

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Annotated by:
Stanford, Ann Folwell
  • Date of entry: Aug-07-2001


Using direct address the speaker has been reading the newspaper and begins the poem, "Already you’re on Page 8," to signify the ease with which "that large animal The Public General" forgets such a horror as the beating death of the little girl, Elizabeth Steinberg. The speaker asks who will remember the child, "or consider the big fists breaking your little bones, / or consider the vague bureaucrats / stumbling, fumbling through Paper."

The speaker ruminates on why she is "sick" when she thinks of her, telling her that "We cannot help you," but that "If you are Somewhere, and sentient, / be comforted, little spirit" because she helps "us begin to hear the scream out of the twisted mouth." Elizabeth’s death will motivate the community, the speaker insists (hopes?), to "stomp into the Horror Houses, / invade the caves of the monsters."


Although somewhat sentimental in its depiction of little girls ("She is for putting a bow-ribbon on. / She is for paper dolls," this poem provides a powerful look at one response to the kind of horror we encounter regularly in the news. The question of advocacy is raised at the end of the poem and it would be useful to look at what it might mean for the community--and especially for health caregivers, given the limits of their work--to "stomp into the Horror Houses."


The publisher’s address is: P.O. Box 19355, Chicago, IL 60619.

Primary Source

Gottschalk and the Grande Tarantelle


The David Company

Place Published