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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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