In the Poem “Yellow Glove” by Naomi Shihab Nye, we are asked a seemingly pointless question: “What can a yellow glove mean in a world of motorcars and governments?” A similar inquiry can be made over the work itself. What can we learn from a poem titled “Yellow Glove” and what can it add to the world of American poetry?
“Yellow Glove” relates a story of a young girl and a pair of yellow gloves she received for Christmas. Nye does a wonderful job of putting us in the young girl’s shoes, making us remember and feel as if we truly are children again. She brings to life the sense of shock the little girl felt as she lost one of her precious gloves to a metaphorical street: the stream.
After watching the glove being sucked under the ice, the girl knew she could not tell her mother. She was well aware of the fact that her family lacked the money to buy another pair of gloves. Even at such a young age, she was sensitive to her mother’s feelings and emotions and knew that tears would be shed if her mother discovered the truth of the lost glove. What the poem doesn’t come out and tell us, but I find apparent, is that the mother in this poem didn’t just cry easily, but she loved her daughter enough that she wanted her to have warm hands and to own a pair of nice yellow gloves. She loved her enough that she would want to buy her more, but wouldn’t be able to due to the lack of money and, as a mother, that broke her heart. Whether or not the young girl realized the extent of her mother’s sentiments, this part of the poem demonstrates, not only the love a mother has for her children, but also the simple compassion which children so often have for others, never wanting to see anyone upset or hurt.
More metaphors are used as we learn that “months rolled down like towels out of a machine” and we can see that the little girl moves on with life, forgetting about the lost glove as she “sang and drew and fattened the cat.” Then, one day as she was playing with her brother, pretending that the June stream was soup, (This is another example of how the poet put us in the shoes of a young child. Who hasn’t compared something in nature to food?) she spots it. “The yellow glove draped on a twig. A muddy survivor. A quiet flag.” The young girl, wondering what had happened to her glove in the past three months, took it home, washed it, and tucked it away in her winter drawer. Once again Nye asks a question, “What can a yellow glove mean in a world of bankbooks and stereos?” This time, however, she answers it herself: “Part of the difference between floating and going down.”
What intrigued me about this poem was that, as I read it, I was very much absorbed in the emotions of the young girl. At times that emotion was distress and other times it was carefree happiness. Sometimes it was even the quiet pleadings of her heart as she prayed that her mother wouldn’t find out about the lost glove, all the while lining up toys on her windowsill. Yet another moment I sensed her fear as she made a deal with the cockroaches in her closet that she would be good as long as they didn’t crawl into her bed, and she truly believed that they left her alone based on the agreement which had been made. No matter what the situation was, I could feel her emotions and sympathize because I had been there before. I had done all of those things when I was a child. As she found her glove and washed it and returned it to its partner, the poem seemed to come to an abrupt end. Yet I found myself asking the same seemingly pointless question. What can a yellow glove mean? It was then that I realized I had completely switched from remembering my childhood back to today’s college-trained, philosophical mindset. What was intended by, “part of the difference between floating and going down” and what can a yellow glove mean?
Sometimes everything in my life seems to be chaotically spinning and I know, if I can just hang on, eventually it will all be okay. I may not be able to swim but as long as I keep my head above the water, not allowing myself to be dragged down by the moral whirlpools around me, things will turn out fine. That’s the difference between floating and going down. In my mind, that muddy glove is an ensign. It truly is a quiet flag, whispering that, no matter how dirtied up I get, I can be washed and made clean again. No matter how many mistakes I have made or have yet to make, things will turn out in the end. No matter how lost and confused I feel, even if I have traveled thousands of miles as the yellow glove did, I can always come home. I am a college-aged student who is still unsure of where I’m going with my life. Some days I feel as if I am aimlessly wandering, having no particular goal in sight. Many times, I have changed my mind and countless times I have made mistakes. I have fallen down repeatedly but my family and my Heavenly Father have always been there with outstretched arms, willing to help me back up and brush me off. So to me, a yellow glove can mean a lot.