The poem is filled with wonderful examples of imagery and figurative language. Readers will likely find themselves easily filling in the blanks of this woman’s life and the people around her. These easy assumptions are powerfully alluded to through the use of language in ‘I’m a Fool to Love You.’
Explore I'm a Fool to Love You
‘I’m a Fool to Love You’ by Cornelius Eady is a powerful poem about a young, black woman’s experience in the world.
The speaker, the woman’s son, tells a brief story about his mother’s life and the choices she made. He knows that if asked, she’d tell the same one. She’s had to make decisions that might seem like the wrong ones, but at the time, they were the only good ones she had. She chose the speaker’s father after being with a man of “no account,” someone who made the speaker’s cruel father seem like a dependable island. Because of her place in the world and the poverty she faced, she had to take the best possible out she had. He was a fire escape into a slightly better world.
You can read the full poem here.
Some folks will tell you the blues is a woman,
Some type of supernatural creature.
When we need to talk straight.
My mother chooses my father
After choosing a man
Who was, as we sing it,
Of no account.
In the first lines of ‘I’m a Fool to Love You,’ the speaker begins by addressing a topic of interest—women, and the choices they make. The speaker is thinking about his mother, a woman who had to make difficult choices in her life and eventually settled with “my father,” a “cruel gentlemen,” but someone who made “a man…of no account” look great. She chose someone who was not the worst possible choice, but, as a young black woman in the world, she did what she had to. The speaker knows if asked that his mother would tell “you” about this choice and others.
This man made my father look good,
That’s how bad it was.
The face my sister carries,
And you know it’s the only leverage
The next few lines provide more details about the speaker’s father and his relationship with the speaker’s mother. The previous man, someone of “no account,” was so bad that he made “my father look good,” the speaker adds. With few details, readers are easily able to guess at the situation here and how bad the previous man must’ve been.
The other man was irresponsible and couldn’t be trusted. Using similes, the speaker says that his father was made to “seem like an island” and “like a rock,” someone dependable and always there through storms.
There are a few troubling and dark lines that follow. The speaker knows, as his mother knows that a young black woman has little to bargain with. Her face is her “only leverage,” the same face that “my sister carries.” This alludes to the speaker’s understanding of the cyclical nature of life. His sister is going to face the same choices that his mother faced.
Does this create a hurt that whispers
How you going to do?
Is the blues the moment
Its sorry wonders,
Makes trouble look like
A feather bed,
Makes the wrong man’s kisses
The poem concludes with a transition into a series of more lyrical lines. The poet’s speaker addresses “a hurt” that’s at the heart of all of this, the inability to build a better life on one’s own and the need to find someone else, as a “girl without money,” to depend on. It’s this position that led the speaker’s mother to where she is today. The speaker’s father, despite his cruelty, seemed like a “fire escape,” the only way out of a metaphorical burning building that was poverty.
Structure and Form
‘I’m a Fool to Love You’ by Cornelius Eady is a forty-four-line poem that is contained within a single stanza of text. The lines are written in free verse. This means that the poem does not follow a specific rhyme scheme or metrical pattern. There are a few examples of half and full rhyme throughout this piece, though. For example, “woman” and “gentleman” are within the first few lines and “use” and “nuance” in lines ten and eleven.
Throughout this poem, Eady makes use of several literary devices. These include but are not limited to:
- Alliteration: the repetition of the same consonant sound at the beginning of words. For example, “strange” and “sometimes” in line five and “faces” and “falling” in lines seven and eight.
- Enjambment: can be seen when the poet cuts off a line before its natural stopping point—for example, the transition between lines six and seven as well as lines twenty-nine and thirty. There are many more examples.
- Anaphora: occurs when the poet repeats the same word or words at the beginning of lines—for example, “A,” which starts lines five, seven, nine, and more.
The speaker is a son, someone who is thoughtfully considering the choices his mother had to make throughout his life. It could be the poet himself, but there is no single line that makes this claim certain. He has an insight into the mother’s life that’s quite deep and penetrating, something that makes his lines moving.
The tone is sympathetic and analytical. The speaker understands that his mother had to make the choices she made, but it’s clear through the phrasing that he feels sympathy for her. He wishes things could be different, especially as his sister is going to face the same challenges.
The purpose is to share the hardships that of young, poor, black woman faces in the world and how a bad choice can seem like a good one compared to even worse options. Readers should walk away from this piece feeling like they’ve been provided insight into someone’s life.
The meaning is that when things are terrible, a very bad choice can seem like a good one if it gets you out of the initial situation. Such is the choice that the speaker’s mother had to make when she chose his father.
Readers who enjoyed ‘I’m a Fool to Love You’ should also consider reading some related poems. For example:
- ‘Phenomenal Woman’ by Maya Angelou – describes the allure that a speaker has as a woman. It celebrates a woman’s body in an un-self-conscious way.
- ‘Power’ by Audre Lorde – is based on a real-life murder and court case. This poem was first published in 1978 but is just as relevant today as it was then.
- ‘A Woman Speaks’ by Audre Lorde – is both a warrior’s song for the invisible and a conversation between women of different cultures.