Study Guide

Hanging Fire Stanza 2

By Audre Lorde

Stanza 2

Lines 12-18

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 

  • Ah, some more adolescent pondering is in store for us in this second stanza. Let's do a little math and see just how teenager-y this teenager is. 
  • Up first: the speaker tells us that she has to "learn how to dance / in time for the next party." On a scale of 1-10, this comment is a 10: she's a total teenager. 
  • Next: the speaker complains that her bedroom is "too small." On a scale of 1-10, we're gonna give this a big ol' 11. What is more adolescent than complaining that your bedroom is too small? It's almost like our speaker's read the teenager handbook. 
  • After that: the speaker imagines that she will die before she graduates. She even imagines her funeral: her mourners will sing sad songs, but they will "finally / tell the truth."
  • What is this deep dark truth, oh speaker? That you don't know how to dance? That you have ashy knees and pimply skin? We think you have a flair for the dramatic, oh 14-year-old one. 
  • But what do you think? Is this a typical dark adolescent fantasy? Is our speaker your average goth girl who makes a hobby out of thinking about death? Or should we sign this girl up for some counseling, stat? Let's keep reading…

Lines 19-23

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. 

  • After some dark moments, our speaker gets back to her typical teenage thoughts: she doesn't want to do… anything. But there's too much to do. We're guessing she's talking about homework, chores, etc.—you know, the absolute worst
  • But even if we're a little skeptical of those vague complaints, the speaker strikes a chord with us in the last two lines of the stanza.
  • Look familiar? That's because these last two lines are repetitions of the last lines of the first stanza. In the poetry biz, that's known as a refrain. Once again, the speaker tells us that her "momma's in the bedroom / with the door closed."
  • This sense of separateness, or even of alienation from her mom, is starting to take on more meaning with this repetition. The fact that her mom is in her bedroom, ignoring her, is starting to feel like a real problem.
  • After all, our speaker's got all kinds of issues—first dances, pimples, a possible obsession with her own mortality—and her mom's not doing anything to help out. Is a little lesson in the electric slide, or even a tube of Clearasil too much for the speaker to ask for from her mother? Our speaker is definitely feeling neglected by her mom, and we're starting to feel real sorry for her.

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