The Lovers of the Poor

by Gwendolyn Brooks

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What does the ending to The Lovers of the Poor by Gwendolyn Brooks mean?

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The Lovers of the Poor by Gwendolyn Brooks ends with the short stanza:

Keeping their scented bodies in the center
Of the hall as they walk down the hysterical hall,
They allow their lovely skirts to graze no wall,
Are off at what they manage of a canter,
And, resuming all the clues of what they were,
Try to avoid inhaling the laden air.

Shaped almost like the sestet of an English sonnet by rhyme but with irregular rhythm, the final six lines of this poem describe the ladies leaving the building . The "lovely skirts" indicate that they are expensively dressed and do not want to have their clothes get dirty by brushing against a dirty wall. the term "canter" evokes horses and images of an upper class that rides horses in the country. The resumption means a return to their ordinary lives distant from the ghetto and they are trying not to breathe too deeply to avoid having to smell the rotting garbage and other unpleasant odours of their surrounding -- something of which the narrator is being extremely critical.

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