What does the speaker compare her life with?

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The speaker, the poet's mother, compares her life to a climb up a hard set of stairs. It has been a treacherous climb, with tacks, and splinters, and places where the boards have been torn up. Sometimes it is dark on the staircase because the light has burned out. Nevertheless, the mother tells her son that she has always kept on climbing.

She advises her son never to give up and never to turn back just because the going gets rough. Life is not a crystal staircase to heaven, but that's no reason to stop trying.

The poem articulates the heartfelt and loving advice a wise black woman gives to her son about being black in America. She wants him to know that nobody is going to make his path easy. Her advice shows her courage and her character and is applicable to anyone facing a hard struggle in life.

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