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By Audre Lorde

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 morning

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.


Audre Lorde, “Hanging Fire” from The Collected Poems of Audre Lorde. Copyright © 1997 by Audre Lorde. Reprinted with the permission of Charlotte Sheedy Literary Agency and W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., www.nortonpoets.com.

Source: The Collected Poems of Audre Lorde (W. W. Norton and Company Inc., 1997)

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Poet Bio

Audre Lorde
The impassioned poetry of Audre Lorde grew out of her keen sense of injustice—racial as well as gender—and a strong desire to break through silence and politeness to unafraid illumination. Born in New York City to West Indian parents, she turned in her later work to African sources, emphasizing its oral roots and finding a model in the matriarchies of that continent for her emergent lesbian and communal consciousness. See More By This Poet

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