What does Audre Lorde want to say in the poem "Coping"?
Though Audre Lorde did not offer an explanation or commentary on her poem "Coping" during her lifetime, one can read the poem as a metaphor for dealing with sadness or stress. The poem is quite short and describes a boy bailing water from puddles in a garden to save the sprouts which grow there, lest they "forget" the sun and drown. The title gives us insight into the possibility that this poem is more to do with emotional coping than weather and plants. (Though, indeed, plants must "cope" with the rain.)
Lorde struggled with a sense of alienation growing up, and as an adult, cancer and depression shaped her writing. Perhaps Lorde constructed the visual of this little boy in the garden as a representation of her own relationship with the process of coping. It is possible that the little boy in the garden existed, and the imagery and his efforts resonated with her own experiences. The sprouts the boy is trying to save may be read as Lorde's own emotional growth and well-being-- the sun, then, would be a sense of hope and joy. Someone who has never experienced joy might easily be swallowed up by depression and fail to cope for the lack of knowing anything better to be possible.