The poem under analysis is “lucky number 7” by T’ai Freedom Ford. The central theme of the poem is self-awareness and self-discovery. This theme is seen repeating throughout the stanzas. The poem is a story of the poet’s life at age 7 and how she discovered that she didn’t want to be who she was. The poet employs various poetic devices such as personification, repetition, and, symbolism. Unlike many of today ’s artists who prefer to jump right into the core issue at hand, Ford uses her poem to highlight a few defining instances of her life. The beauty of this that those moments are just as effective at conveying the issue to the reader as talking about the issue itself would’ve been, except then the poem wouldn’t have been this beautiful. In fact, it’s not up until the first line of the second stanza that the poet clearly states that the author was just 7 years old when she first discovered that she did not want to be a girl, she writes, ‘at 7, I decided I should’ve been born a boy, a he, a him’.
Self-awareness of one’s sexual orientation is important in the life of any individual as our sexual preferences and who we identify with plays a big role in everyday life and an even bigger role in defining who we are. The poet talks about multiple instances where who she was would conflict with who she wanted to be. This conflict would cause her pain, disappointment, and sometimes embarrassment. Take, for instance, the second and third stanzas, each stanza tells a different story of this conflict. In the second stanza, the poet paints a picture of this struggle as she tells the reader that at 7-year-old, she wanted a penis and thus tried to pee like a boy but couldn’t do so. The author “prayed for a penis and practiced peeing standing up”. Clearly, something like this was destined to fail and the poet ends up ruining her clothes. Following this, in the third stanza, the poet reveals that she had a habit of chewing things. The poet writes “at 7, i was never afraid of putting things in my mouth”. Pens were among the different things she would chew on and one day, inevitably, the ink leaked into her mouth. Her young classmates must’ve found this funny and made fun of her and forced her to run to the bathroom. The poet writes, “kids pointing as i ran to the bathroom”. The stanza is meant to highlight the contrast between the poet and other girls who care about their bodies and are generally less rough than their male counterparts.
There is a lot of repetition of the number 7 in the poem. The author repetitively talks about the age of 7 to emphasize the age at which she first started to identify as a boy. At 7 she regretted why she was born a girl and blames her mother for the mistake. At age 7, she wishes to be as hard as a rock and shuns the common games played by girls to play games which she thinks would make her hard like a boy. The use of repetition of the age of the author is important signifies the early age at which she became self-aware of her sexual orientation. It is no coincidence that the poem’s title is “lucky number 7”. The author considers herself lucky to have become self-aware of her sexual orientation at such an early and the number 7 no doubt holds a special place in her heart.
The author’s abilities as a 7-year-old girl are highly exaggerated in the poem. In the first stanza, she seduces Keisha, her babysitter. It is definitely not possible for a 7-year-old to seduce anyone especially someone who is five years older than her. In the last stanza, the author says ‘karate-chopping pencils in two’. This is an exaggeration because one certainly does not need a karate chop to break a pencil into two. However, this may be an attempt by the poet to emphasize the age of the protagonist and how a 7-year-old would require a karate chop to break a pencil. The author uses exaggeration to try to put us into the mind of a 7-year-old so as to see the world in her young eyes.
The author’s tone throughout the poem is that of desperation. ‘I hoped rocks would whisper the secret to being hard’. It is impossible for the rocks to talk back to her and tell her how she would be harder and the poet knows this yet, she is desperate to achieve the impossible. She wishes that she was born a boy and even blames her mother for the mistake of giving birth to her as a girl. She is so desperate to be a boy that she prays for a penis. The author uses a desperate tone, to first, show her desperation to be accepted by the rest of the children as a boy and second, to show the pain she felt upon realizing that she could do nothing to become a boy. This helps to further the theme of self-awareness of the author about her situation.
There is extensive use of symbolism in the poem by T’ai Freedom Ford. When she is found humping Keisha, her babysitter, she describes the snatching of the covers to be like a magic trick revealed. A magic trick brings a shock to the audience after the reveal and T’ai Freedom Ford uses symbolism to describe the experience to be shocking to Keisha, her babysitter who discovers Ford’s true sexual orientation. This use of symbolism to describe the encounter tells the reader that this was the first time Ford saw someone’s reaction to her acting like a boy and was just as shocked after seeing the other person react, if not more than the other person itself. Ford uses the line ‘Chewed pencils till the yellow paint flaked me a crusty mustache’. to subtly show her desire to have manly features. She symbolizes the shape formed by the flakes as a mustache. The poet has employed symbolism to perfectly highlight her desires without the use of the actual words which may have been too direct for the poem and may have away from the beauty,
Self-awareness is vital in the interactions of an individual with others as it gives them a chance to understand their similarities and differences. The poem highlights this struggle as the poet learns of her differences as a 7-year-old girl who wants to identify as a boy. From her attraction to her babysitter to trying to pee like a boy and playing “hard” games, the writer tells a story of a young girl who is yet to come out of the closet regarding her sexual orientation. The poem touches on various issues such as society’s refusal to accept an individual who is different than the others. Although in recent years, society has become much more accepting of same-sex couples and of gays in general, one can understand how hard it would’ve been on the poet at that time, especially during that young age. Though I can understand the babysitter’s reaction, it would have definitely scarred the young poet and made her hesitant to ever be open near anyone. It could’ve even alienated her to some extent and might’ve even made her feel that she was “wrong” and her feelings were “wrong.”
In conclusion, the theme of self-discovery and self-awareness is evident throughout the poem. In the first stanza, the author is very certain of her attraction to a girl just like her. She constantly wishes to be a boy and tries hard to do things that she thinks boys would do. She tries peeing like a boy and plays boyish games like biting on pencils and doing karate chops. The author has effectively demonstrated the importance of self-awareness of an individual regardless of the age, which I believe is the most important thing to take away from this poem. The poet knew who she was and didn’t let any instance, no matter how unfavorable, change her stance, and that’s respectable, even more for so for someone aged seven.