The poem is about a black boy who wishes that he could have regular things in life. Things such as a congratulatory hug, to be educated to the highest level and to travel without harassment. The persona yearns to stop fighting for the basic right to be successful and to rise above societal expectations.
The constant repetition of the phrase ‘I wish’ points to a yearning, a desperation even, for the basic things that life has to offer. The repetition gives credence to the idea that the persona might believe that his wishes are actually dreams that might not come true.
Stanza 1, lines 6 and 7, alludes to slavery, the state of lacking control over one’s own life and destiny. The fact that reference is made to this hints to how the persona feels about his life. He does not feel as if he has control over it.
Stanza 3, lines 19 to 20, alludes to Paul Robeson, a black intellectual, who attained success despite difficult circumstances. The persona yearns to be like this person. He wants room to stretch intellectually.
Stanza 4, lines 22 to 25, alludes to the klu klux klan. Burning lights refers to the burning of crosses and the pyjamas alludes to their white outfits that look like pyjamas. The persona wants them to leave him alone, find something else to do other than make his life difficult by contributing to his wishes remaining in the realm of the dreams.
IMPORTANT WORDS / PHRASE
3.’not sink to lick boots’
This refers to the concept of being subservient. To have no choice but to kowtow to people in order to get ahead.
4. ‘Inside eye a sun’
This refers to the persona’s mind. He wants to show how intelligent he is without fear. He wants his mind to be a sun. Sun represents brightness and light, that is how he wants his intelligence to shine.
The tone/mood of the poem is one of sadness. The persona is thinking about how he is treated and he reacts to this in a sad way. He keeps wishing that things were different.
- childhood experiences