To be quite honest, I had no idea where I was going to begin with writing this response. I must have re-read Hanging Fire by Audre Lorde over and over again, and I am still sadly stuck on what my starting point is going to contain. I have to start somewhere, so here it goes. What I can say is that I enjoy this poem greatly. It brings back memories and feelings I thought were buried in my mind everlastingly. The first stanza compares a lot to many experiences and emotions I have felt and endured throughout the 18 years I have been alive. I first pictured a young girl with a face filled with acne, which refers to the line “and my skin has betrayed me” (Lorde 824). This helps me to remember that just hours before I began writing this, I was staring at myself in the mirror wondering why my face broke out and I just wanted to cry. I know how this young girl feels, and it is not a pleasant feeling.
The next line “the boy I cannot live without still sucks his thumb in secret” (Lorde 824), instantly brought up the feeling of disappointment. I just assumed she was talking about a crush and it just meshes with the negative aspects of her life listed in the poem. I understand why she would be disappointed and I do not blame her. She found an unsettling flaw in someone she fancies. She either has to accept this or move on. Suddenly, I remembered that I sucked my thumb for a few years when I was around the age of seven. To make it even worse, I carried along a sheet. Yes. Not a blanket, a sheet. Apparently I liked the way it felt and I religiously held it with me throughout the entire day. It is definitely not one of my favorite memories, but I am glad this poem helped me to remember that small part of my life.
The following line “how come my knees are always so ashy” (Lorde 824) caused me to immediately look down at the ash that was occupying the space between my thumb and pointer finger. My hands are always dry in the winter, which then made me remember that I had forgotten to use lotion this morning. Thinking about the winter makes me miss the summer and how I would rather have sun-dried skin than unflattering ashy skin. While reading the last few lines of the poem “what if I die before morning and mamma’s in the bedroom with the door closed” (Lorde 824), I was interrupted by one of my favorite songs playing in the background. I made the choice to write my response in Starbucks, which is packaged with a lovely coffee shop soundtrack and a room filled with maddening chatter. Therefore, my brain simply synchronized the song and poem together. I cannot recall the actual sense of the lines, but now they are overpowered by a lovely song called “Home” by Edward Sharpe& the Magnetic Zeros.
While reading the next stanza, millions of thoughts were running a marathon through my head. The astounding part is that they are all connected to me. This whole stanza reminds me of myself, and I find the written structure of it quite fascinating. I find it amazing how only a few sentences are capable of stirring up forgotten judgments and opinions, which previously consumed my conscience. While reading the first line “I have to learn how to dance in time for the next party” (Lorde 824), the word “awkward” sprung into my mind. I recall going to my middle school dances and how they made me so nervous, solely on the fact that it was a “dance” where one was expected to “dance.” Well, the so called “dancing” at the time was considered “grinding” and I refused to do that. Everyone that participated in this dance looked so awkward. As a female, “grinding” makes you look trashy and shows an indication of having no self-respect for yourself. Honestly, it should not even be categorized as dancing. There is no dancing being done, and I believe dancing requires two or more people moving to a rhythm. Grinding essentially is a male standing still while a female simply “grinds” on him. I do not know where or who decided to call that “dancing” but sadly as a society, we participate and approve of it.
So aside from all of the previous rambling, the next line makes me think of my bedroom. “My room is too small for me” (Lorde 824) reminds me that my room is still not decorated nor painted and that makes me a bit livid. My family and I moved into our current house a few months back. Due to the economy and my dad switching jobs, we never got around to redecorating. I have so many ideas on how I want my room to look and I am tired of my parents putting off the renovation. Assumingly, a majority of my classmates would read this poem and complain about how small in size their room is. But as you can see, I differ from them because I think about renovating my room rather than the size of it.
The most relevant line in this poem, to me, is found in this stanza. The relevance of this line is so significant because it relates to me 100%. “There is nothing I want to do and too much that has to be done” (Lorde 824-825) is a reflection of how I feel about my current life schedule. This is where it certainly intersects with me. While balancing four classes, a job, and a healthy lifestyle, it is hard to add in a bit of time to relax and enjoy doing nothing. There is so much I have to accomplish between all the homework, working seven hour shifts, and making time to go to the gym. Many of my days are spent wishing for a few hours to catch up on sleep or purely having a day to worry about absolutely nothing. College has made me realize that there is definitely not enough time in a day to accomplish most of the things I need to get done. It is foolish to think that having 24 hours in one day is not enough time. It seems like a lot of time, but quite frankly, it really is not.
The final stanza, truthfully, is where the most complaining is being done. I can orient myself towards the speaker in a few different ways. “Nobody even stops to think about my side of it” (Lorde 825) helps me to connect with the speaker. I feel like we are the same in many aspects and this sentence adds to the list of the previous lines. I feel like most of my life is spent listening to other people. I am not one to share my opinion or argue with another person to get them to agree with me. I feel like sometimes I want people to be curious about what I think. Maybe I just want my opinion or advice to hold some significance to someone else. This line, right here, makes me feel like the speaker is writing for readers like me. I like knowing I can relate on more of a mental level with the speaker, without physically knowing them. It is sort of relieving in an eccentric kind of way.
The subsequent line contains the words “math team” (Lorde 825), which immediately makes me think of the movie “Mean Girls.” It reminds me of the ending when the main character, Cady Heron, agrees to becoming a “mathlete” and wins the math competition for her team. The succeeding line says “why do I have to be the one wearing braces” (Lorde 825) which represents my sister. My younger sister, Erin, is the only one out of my entire family who needed braces. I recollect her saying this line numerous times and it makes me laugh. I dedicate this line to her because it could not fit her anymore perfectly. “I have nothing to wear tomorrow” (Lorde 825) is a streak of words that I believe every woman has said at least a billion times in their lifetime. Although we all know we have a ton of clothes to wear, we always fall into a panic of “never having anything to wear.” This is surely one of the biggest struggles, us females, have to endure in our lifetime. This is a reason why I believe the speaker is a young girl. There is no doubt that a young boy would say this line, but being a female and reading this line, I can relate much more than a boy can. If a boy read this poem, I believe he would see the speaker as a male.
Finally, we reach the end of the poem. What I have noticed throughout this work, before the speaker states “and mamma’s in the bedroom with the door closed” (Lorde 824-825) they always add a thought about dying. I wanted to save these lines for last because I had a hard time relating to them. This is the part that I struggled with the most. At the age of fourteen, I could not quite understand why she would be talking or even thinking about dying. It makes me believe her emotions were initiated by something more than just being “misunderstood.” I feel great sympathy towards this little girl and I wish her mamma was not “in the bedroom with the door closed” (Lorde 824-825). This indicates her mom has not spent enough time helping her through this rough time. I am only eighteen and I still need my mom’s approval and advice to guide me through hard times. At fourteen, I could not imagine not having my mom helping me to grow into a confident young woman. This is where I feel sympathy for this young girl. Every young girl deserves to have a mother rooting for her throughout the negative and positive hardships of life.
Hanging Fire is a poem I can greatly appreciate now. It has helped me to recollect old memories and feelings that I thought I had forgotten. It has been nice to journey back into the past. It has helped me to appreciate all the challenges and goals I have accomplished. As a reader, I valued this poem and will now have another amazing piece of work to compare to future writings I will soon read. It definitely brings a new meaning to poetry I never had the chance to recognize. I am glad I took this adventure back into my mind and rediscovered lost memories and feelings I thought I had forgotten.
Lorde, Audre. “Hanging Fire.” Literature: Approaches to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. Ed. Robert DiYanni. 2nd ed. New York: McGraw Hill, 2008. 824-825. Print.