In ‘Who will cry for the little boy?’ Fisher explores themes of childhood, innocence, love, and solitude. The mood and tone are both dark, depressing, and at times desperate. The speaker, as well as all the other men he is representing, is seeking out reassurance from a world that doesn’t seem to care for them. The poem was published in a collection of the same name in 2003.
The poem uses a refrain, “Who will cry for the little boy?” as the basis for a poem that delves into the heart of a man still suffering from his youth. His inner child is crying, seeking out comfort that it never received in his true youth. This child suffered, without companionship or reassurance, despite his attempts at doing what he should. In the last line, it is revealed that the speaker has such a child inside him as well.
You can read the full poem here.
‘Who will cry for the little boy?’ by Antwone Fisher is a five stanza poem that is separated into five sets of four lines, known as quatrains. The quatrains follow a rhyme scheme of ABAB ACAC, changing the end sound of the even-numbered lines from stanza to stanza.
Throughout this poem Fisher uses repetition. It is seen through the use of a refrain, “Who will cry for the little boy?” that repeats itself ten times. A reader is constantly reminded of this question which is at the heart of the poem. Who, the speaker asks, is going to cry for and continue to care for “the little boy?”
There are also examples of half-rhyme throughout this poem. Half-rhyme, also known as slant or partial rhyme, is seen through the repetition of assonance or consonance. This means that either a vowel or consonant sound is reused within one line or multiple lines of verse. For example, the double “l” consonant sound in the refrain lines as well as “cried” and “cry” in lines two and three of the second stanza.
Fisher makes use of several poetic techniques in ‘Who will cry for the little boy?’ These include, but are not limited to, repetition, as seen through anaphora and epistrophe, as well as imagery. The first, anaphora, is the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of multiple lines, usually in succession. For instance, “Who,” which begins a total of twelve lines. This technique is often used to create emphasis. A list of phrases, items, or actions may be created through its implementation.
Epistrophe is the opposite of anaphora. It is the repetition of the same word, or a phrase, at the end of multiple lines or sentences. For example, “Boy” ends ten of the lines.
Imagery refers to the elements of a poem that engage a reader’s senses. Traditionally, the word “image” is related to visual sights, things that a reader can imagine seeing, but the imagery is much more than that. It is something one can sense with their five senses. There are a few good images in this piece but the best is in the second line of the third stanza in which the speaker describes the boy as having “walked the burning sand”.
In the first stanza of this poem, the speaker begins by making the first use of the refrain which is included twice in each stanza. He ask who is left in the world who cares enough to “cry for the little boy”? With all the apathy that exists amongst the world’s populations is there anyone, they wonder, who still cares? This little boy is “Lost and all alone” without anyone to guide or direct him. The boy is a metaphorical representation of a grown man’s youth. He still exists, within this person’s heart and soul, and needs to be cared for.
The speaker adds that he is “Abandoned without his own” after the refrain. This alludes to a total lack of connection between this person and anyone else. There do not appear to be any family members, friends, or acquaintances who are there to care for him or give comfort to his inner child.
The second stanza follows the same pattern of two refrains in the odd-numbered lines. Between them, the speaker describes the metaphorical child as deeply sad. He cried himself to sleep and never had anything “for keeps”. This is not a reference to possessions but to safety and love. Nothing has been consistent in his life, not even now that he is grown up.
In the third stanza, the speaker describes the child as having “walked the burning sand”. He has suffered and put up with a great deal in his life. These tests have not resulted in him coming out the other side successfully, he is still suffering. The child who has been referenced continually throughout these first three stanzas is not exactly a child, but the “boy inside the man”. Because as a youth he was not cared for in the way he should’ve, the suffering child still exists to this day.
In the fourth stanza of ‘Who will cry for the little boy?’ the speaker depicts the child as knowledgeable. He understands the world well as he has suffered at its hand. He knows pain. The child, who is really now a man, has “died again and again”. This is the loss of innocence and the continual disappointment and loss that has plagued his life.
In the final four lines of ‘Who will cry for the little boy’ the speaker emphasizes how this man, as a child, did nothing wrong. He tried to be a “good boy”. But, the world did not reward him for it. There is a twist at the end of the poem as the speaker asks who will cry for the little boy who “cries inside of [him]?” He has this same child inside of him and is alluding to the fact that this child, and the man he resides within, is not a singular occurrence. There are many people who fit the speaker’s description, including himself.