“she being Brand” and “Coming Home, Detroit, 1968”

While the two poems by e.e. cummings and Phillip Levine both use metaphors for driving, the intention of the poems is strikingly different.

The first piece we analyzed is rather fun. cummings describes a new driver taking his car out for a spin. The car is responsive and his description of the drive has movement and flow, the energy ebbs and flows. But the poem is also metaphor for sex. The driver has “thoroughly oiled the universal joint… / felt of her radiator made sure her springs were O.K.” This describes the act of foreplay, and as the poem continues, it reaches a climax and ends abruptly.  “I slammed on/the internalexpanding & externalcontracting/ breaks Bothatonce and / brought allofhertremB-ling / to a:dead. / stand- / ; still). ”


In contrast, Levine’s poem is disturbingly mournful. From the very first stanza he uses the phrase “dirtied with words.” Before today, I was unaware of the racially charged climate in Detroit during this era, but that phrase alone has a very negative connotation.  Moving on, he describes the people who have been displaced by the automobile industry. “The charred faces, the eyes/boarded up, the rubble of innards, the cry of wet smoke hanging in your throat, / the twisted river stopped at the color of iron.” None of these are positive images. Eyes are blank, the river polluted, and the city is in absolute turmoil.

One thought on ““she being Brand” and “Coming Home, Detroit, 1968”

  1. rmichals

    You do great job of citing specific passages to back up your points.

    If in the first poem, driving is a metaphor for sex, in the second, I think it is a metaphor for our indifference to the misery of the people of Detroit. We-meaning the reader and the writer-drive by the child, ignoring his stare.


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