What literary elements are most prominent in "Hanging Fire"?
In this poem the most prominent literary devices are the use of short, brief and succinct declarative sentences and repetition. These two devices are used with great effect to describe the kind of situation that the persona of the poem, the fourteen-year-old female, is facing, and the kind of "hanging fire" that seems about to usher in disaster into her world.
The declarative sentences she uses convey the huge range anxieties that the speaker is suffering as she faces loneliness and is in a very isolated position:
I am fourteen
and my skin has betrayed me
the boy I cannot live without
still sucks his tumb
These very short sentences have the effect of gunshots or blows as the persona shouts out or utters them one by one, revealing herself to us. Her fear of death is divulged this way.
One notable repetition is the way in which each stanza ends with the same refrain:
and momma's in the bedroom
with the door closed.
Although the persona is clearly troubled by her host of problems what concerns her most is the fact that her mother is inaccessible and she is unable to talk to her about what she is experiencing. The repetition seems to reinforce the idea that this is the most troubling aspect of the girl's life: the one individual who could help her and that she could talk to is, it is suggested, consciously uncaring and inaccessible.