Study Guide

Hanging Fire Death

By Audre Lorde


what if I die
before morning (8-9)

Until this moment, the speaker has been complaining about some pretty typical teenager stuff: pimples, boys—you know the drill. But here, some bigger picture worries creep in. What if she dies before morning, she wonders. Is this a healthy concern with death? (After all, it's gonna happen to all of us eventually.) Or is the speaker a little too concerned with mortality for our own comfort?

suppose I die before graduation
they will sing sad melodies
but finally
tell the truth about me (15-18)

Apparently the speaker's mortality-related concerns aren't just a one-time deal. Here, she gets even more specific, and goes as far as wondering about the songs people will sing at her funeral. We're starting to worry for our speaker's mental health.

will I live long enough
to grow up
and momma's in the bedroom
with the door closed. (32-35)

Our speaker's focus on her own mortality is just heartbreaking. We don't know why she's so worried about her own death. Is she sick? Is the apocalypse coming? Does she live in a bad part of town? All we can be sure of is that she has no one to talk to about her fears; her mom's "in the bedroom / with the door closed." The speaker has to deal with her mortality-related fears all alone, and that's maybe the scariest thing of all.

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