But there was a world Somewhere Out there And Mrs. Long opened that wardrobe But no lions or witches scared me I went through Knowing there would be Spring
When you see that conjunction "but" in the first line, you might feel a little alarmed. As in, "OMG, there's a world out there! It will crush your spirit! It will be scary!"
Take a deep breath, gang. It's not so bad as all that.
The young poet is making that leap into the larger world, one that she experiences through those books that Mrs. Long pays a price to secure.
This final stanza confirms that, yes, this poem is a coming-of-age piece.
Stanza 8 references C.S. Lewis's The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe in lines 46-48. In Lewis's work, the main characters first step into the world of Narnia via a wardrobe and find wonderful things there. But there's also eternal winter and dangerous creatures.
Giovanni riffs on Lewis's set-up to show us that Mrs. Long's portal (her books) were unconditionally positive—no matter what was out in that great, big world, good things were coming.
In some ways, Giovanni is probably thinking about her own life. She would go on to college and become an important voice in her community and the world.
But she's also talking about what would happen in society. Since Giovanni speaks of racial issues in stanzas 3, 4 and 5, she's likely thinking of the changes that she would experience in the '60s, '70s, and beyond.
Stanza 8 has a much more staccato feel to it. There are a lot of one- or two-word lines in here, which gives it a thudding, abrupt rhythm. Visually, it looks like we are funneling down to the end of the poem, like a final drop of water sluicing down a tap. (Check out "Form and Meter" for more on the way this poem's put together.)
The overall effect of this makes us pause, and gives each of these final words special significance.
This is especially true of those single-word lines: "Somewhere" (44), "Out there" (45—okay, that's two words, but we're equating it with "somewhere"), and "Spring" (50).
Each word acts as a stepping-stone toward that bright future that the young poet faces, courtesy of her mentors.