Adolescence 

Adolescence
By Claude McKay

There was a time when in late afternoon
The four-o’clocks would fold up at day’s close
Pink-white in prayer, and ’neath the floating moon
I lay with them in calm and sweet repose.

And in the open spaces I could sleep,
Half-naked to the shining worlds above;
Peace came with sleep and sleep was long and deep,
Gained without effort, sweet like early love.

But now no balm—nor drug nor weed nor wine—
Can bring true rest to cool my body’s fever,
Nor sweeten in my mouth the acid brine,
That salts my choicest drink and will forever.

Analysis by Juan Pablo

Adolescence is the story of how the narrator is looking back, reflecting on life and the past. This is noted in line 1, “There was time …”. The narrator is looking back at his adolescent days remembering the things he used to do; such as in lines 5 and 6, “And in open space I could sleep, Half-naked to the shining worlds above”. The narrator then confesses to us that now that they are older and mature, the substances that the narrator once used to cope with the pain or grief (line 9, “no balm–nor drug nor weed nor wine- Can bring true rest to cool my body’s fever,”) thus implying that the narrator realized that substance abuse does not help people with their problem. This poem is about coming of age and realization of past mistakes. The author also used rhyme every other line; for example, afternoon and floating moon. The author used an ABAB rhyme scheme.

About Joe

I began my life in the South and for five years lived as a closeted teacher, but am now making a new life for myself as an oral historian in New England. I think my life will work out the way it was always meant to be. That doesn't mean there won't be ups and downs; that's all part of life. It means I just have to be patient. I feel like October 7, 2015 is my new birthday. It's a beginning filled with great hope. It's a second chance to live my life…not anyone else's. My profile picture is "David and Me," 2001 painting by artist Steve Walker. It happens to be one of my favorite modern gay art pieces. View all posts by Joe

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