I set down on the bank.
I tried to think but couldn’t,
So I jumped in and sank.I came up once and hollered!
I came up twice and cried!
If that water hadn’t a-been so cold
I might’ve sunk and died.But it was Cold in that water! It was cold!I took the elevator
Sixteen floors above the ground.
I thought about my baby
And thought I would jump down.I stood there and I hollered!
I stood there and I cried!
If it hadn’t a-been so high
I might’ve jumped and died.But it was High up there! It was high!So since I’m still here livin’,
I guess I will live on.
I could’ve died for love–
But for livin’ I was bornThough you may hear me holler,
And you may see me cry–
I’ll be dogged, sweet baby,
If you gonna see me die.Life is fine! Fine as wine! Life is fine!
This poem poses death as solution to the loss of love. There is obviously a great deal of disillusionment in this mentality and this is portrayed in the author’s account of his attempts. He uses contradiction to grab the reader’s attention; emphasizing the cold water that actually saved him from drowning-the harsh, cold, reality saved him in life. Similarly, when he references the height in his jumping suicide attempt, I took this to be the force that held him back from jumping. People often think of suicide as an easier solution but this poem argues its difficulties and complications. It is harder to carry on with life than to end it and this is exemplified in this character’s difficulty with suicide. He concludes that he is meant to stay on earth, his attempts at suicide are fought by fate and that life is valuable.
Although subtle, I think the use of the simile in the final line is significant. The comparison of life being fine as wine captures a couple of meanings. That his tale of life as gloomy and full of loss is also as rich as wine, complex and full. Also, wine evokes joyful images, times of celebratory events and suicide certainly doesn’t encompass these qualities. Ending with this simile shows his transformation from despair to celebration. The tone allows for the difficult topic of suicide to be brushed over because of the positive conclusion. In addition, the language is informal and almost feels friendly, to match the tone. Hughe’s use of an informal and colloquial language allows us to read such different subject matter and digest its meaning comfortably.