What Is the Meaning of Making a Fist in Naomi Shihab Nye’s Poem?

In Naomi Shihab Nye’s poem “Making a Fist,” making a fist represents life and the potential for life to go on. In the poem, the narrator asks her mother how to know if they are dying. The mother says it is when one can no longer make a fist.

“Making a Fist” was published in 1988. In the poem, Nye describes her experience being comforted by her mother when she was sick. Her mother told her she was not dying as long as she still had the strength to make a fist. Nye then writes that she is still comforted by this thought.

Naomi Shihab Nye is an Arab-American poet. Her writing focuses on her experiences as a member of an ethnic minority. She commonly writes about the nature of life, death and humanitarianism.