1) What is the main theme of the poem? Who's the speaker? What is the speaker saying? Starting with the background - it is being said by a man who works in hotels, probably as a cleaner or something fairly low in the hierarchy, probably a black. The places are all places where he has worked.
2) What does the poet suggest by "the steam," " the smoke," and "the slime." Can you explain them for me? Exactly what he says - kitchens are steamy, hotel lobbies [when people could smoke in them] were smoky, and spittoons [into which men spat their tobacco juice when chewing tobacco] are full of slimy liquid.
3) What does Baby, Church or Womem mean? What does the poet mean by saying that they 'mixed with money'? All the things for which he needs money.
4) Why is a bright, polished bowl like a cups of Solomons? What is Solomons? What does this line mean? King Solomon's cups. King Solomon was a great Jewish king, famous for his wisdom and for his wealth. So his cups were probably polished gold or silver, and the polished brass spittoons are being compared to them.
5) What does the last-but-one line mean? "Offer that," What is the 'that'? The speaker can offer the boy a bright bowl or what? Can you explain this line for me? He can offer his skill [ in polishing the spittoons] to God.
The line "Com'ere, boy" is him repeating what is being said to him by the customers. The use of the term "boy" indicates that he is a black man in the US South.
The poem's words are simple but the hidden meaning is very difficult to me. I don't understand this poem.
Without background knowledge, very difficult to understand!
- For Teachers