Sunday, November 30, 2008

hanging fire

Hanging Fire
by Audre Lorde (p872)

I am fourteen
and my skin has betrayed me
the boy I cannot live without
still sucks his thumb
in secret
how come my knees are
always so ashy
what if I die
before the morning comes
and momma's in the bedroom
with the door closed.

I have to learn how to dance
in time for the next party
my room is too small for me
suppose I die before graduation
they will sing sad melodies
but finally
tell the truth about me
There is nothing I want to do
and too much
that has to be done
and momma's in the bedroom
with the door closed.

Nobody even stops to think
about my side of it
I should have been on Math Team
my marks were better than his
why do I have to be
the one
wearing braces
I have nothing to wear tomorrow
will I live long enough
to grow up
and momma's in the bedroom
with the door closed.

Well first off I thought this poem was simply about growing up and fitting in. However the line “and my skin has betrayed me” got me thinking about other possibilities beyond human hormones, but rather: racial tension. So I did a quick search on Audre Lorde and found that she was a Caribbean-American writer, poet, and activist. And the fact that the poem was written in 1978 provides a greater correlation to racial tensions due to the recent civil rights movement.

With this in mind, the poem really emphasizes the inequalities that blacks had to face during that time. The fact that “Nobody even stops to think about my side of it” and that she “should have been on the Math Team my marks were better than his” shows that the girl has been treated unfairly. The speaker advocates change and progression, yet she is hindered by society’s ignorance. Also, “hanging fire” is an idiom that means to stall or delay which again supports the speakers urge for change.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Thank God, bless God, all ye who suffer not
More grief than ye can weep for. That is well -
That is light grieving! lighter, none befell
Since Adam forfeited the primal lot.
Tears! what are tears? The babe weeps in its cot,
The mother singing, at her marriage-bell
The bride weeps, and before the oracle
Of high-faned hills the poet has forgot
Such moisture on his cheeks. Thank God for grace,
Ye who weep only! If, as some have done,
Ye grope tear-blinded in a desert place

And touch but tombs, - look up I those tears will run
Soon in long rivers down the lifted face,
And leave the vision clear for stars and sun.

When I first read this poem, I thought that it was about grief. And as the title suggests, tears usually is related to sadness. However, after rereading the poem, I realized that the tears are meant to be tears of joy. And instead of grief, Browning is trying to emphasize happiness. The tears from “the babe in its cot” and “the bride” are from their innocence or happiness.

Clearly, religion is an important aspect to consider in this poem. She begins the poem with “thank God, bless God” which shows her security within religion. She believes that God cleanses her grief and “thanks God for grace”.

Finally, the poem concludes with an uplifting image. Although tears form “long rivers” upon her face, she looks up with a “lifted face” nonetheless. She gazes up at the “stars and sun” which symbolizes her confidence in the future.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

aunt jennifer's tigers

Aunt Jennifer's Tigers
by Adrienne Rich (p844)

Aunt Jennifer's tigers prance across a screen,
Bright topaz denizens of a world of green.
They do not fear the men beneath the tree;
They pace in sleek chivalric certainty.

Aunt Jennifer's finger fluttering through her wool
Find even the ivory needle hard to pull.
The massive weight of Uncle's wedding band
Sits heavily upon Aunt Jennifer's hand.

When Aunt is dead, her terrified hands will lie
Still ringed with ordeals she was mastered by.
The tigers in the panel that she made
Will go on prancing, proud and unafraid.

There are two intertwined tones that Rich expresses through this poem. The first, hope, and the second, remorse. Although these two tones might seem contradicting, they stem from the role and perception of women. Quite simply, Rich is a feminist and advocates this idea through her drawings. And clearly, Aunt Jennifer’s tigers are a significant symbol in this poem. They “do not fear the men” and they “pace in sleek chivalric certainty”. They embody strength and bravery. They represent Rich’s audacious spirit and hope for the future.

The tone changes into remorse when Aunt Jennifer realizes that her feelings can only be expressed as drawings. She is suppressed by societal views and locked in her negative marriage. “The massive weight of Uncle’s wedding band” confines her to her helpless position. She cannot do anything with her “terrified hands” but convey these ideals in indirect ways.

Yet Rich concludes her poem with hope. In essence, Aunt Jennifer dies as a martyr, but more importantly, her work and message live on. Her tigers “go on prancing, proud and unafraid” despite her death and continue to influence and inspire.