Gwendolyn Brooks


Gwendolyn Brooks was born in Topeka, Kansas, on June 7, 1917, and raised in Chicago. She was the author of more than twenty books of poetry, including Children Coming Home (The David Co., 1991); Blacks (The David Co., 1987); To Disembark (Third World Press, 1981); The Near-Johannesburg Boy and Other Poems (The David Co., 1986); Riot (Broadside Press, 1969); In the Mecca (Harper & Row, 1968); The Bean Eaters (Harper, 1960); Annie Allen (Harper, 1949), for which she received the Pulitzer Prize; and A Street in Bronzeville (Harper & Brothers, 1945). She also wrote numerous other books including a novel, Maud Martha (Harper, 1953), and Report from Part One: An Autobiography (Broadside Press, 1972), and edited Jump Bad: A New Chicago Anthology (Broadside Press, 1971). In 1968 she was named poet laureate for the state of Illinois. In 1985, she was the first black woman appointed as consultant in poetry to the Library of Congress, a post now known as Poet Laureate. She also received an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award, the Frost Medal, a National Endowment for the Arts Award, the Shelley Memorial Award, and fellowships from the Academy of American Poets and the Guggenheim Foundation. She lived in Chicago until her death on December 3, 2000. Source

The Boy Died in My Alley

to Running Boy


The Boy died in my alley

without my Having Known.

Policeman said, next morning,

"Apparently died Alone."


"You heard a shot?" Policeman said.

Shots I hear and Shots I hear.

I never see the Dead.


The Shot that killed him yes I heard

as I heard the Thousand shots before;

careening tinnily down the nights

across my years and arteries.


Policeman pounded on my door.

"Who is it?" "POLICE!" Policeman yelled.

"A Boy was dying in your alley.

A Boy is dead, and in your alley.

And have you known this Boy before?"


I have known this Boy before.

I have known this boy before, who ornaments my alley.

I never saw his face at all.

I never saw his futurefall.

But I have known this Boy.


I have always heard him deal with death.

I have always heard the shout, the volley.

I have closed my heart-ears late and early.

And I have killed him ever.


I joined the Wild and killed him

with knowledgeable unknowing.

I saw where he was going.

I saw him Crossed.  And seeing,

I did not take him down.


He cried not only "Father!"

but "Mother!



The cry climbed up the alley.

It went up to the wind.

It hung upon the heaven

for a long

stretch-strain of Moment.


The red floor of my alley

is a special speech to me.





Literary Movements:

Black Arts Movement

Anthology Years:



Death & Loss

Police Brutality

Violence & War

Literary Devices:


conversation between two or more people as a feature of a book, play, or movie

End Rhyme

when a poem has lines ending with words that sound the same


the attribution of human qualities to a non-human thing


a recurrence of the same word or phrase two or more times