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attempting the futile task to cross 800+ miles on land, & then on sea, & then by poetry

by alliyah

(Author's Note: this is a untraditionally formatted poem, written in a sort of list-poem style somewhat based off the "where I'm from" poetry model. Some questions you could consider if you're stuck - but don't feel like you need to use these!)

1) what was the overall narrative or story you understood?

2) what images stuck with you?

3) what parts did you think didn't fit with the flow of the overall piece?

4) thoughts on format?)

Is this a review?



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542 Reviews

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Tue Aug 16, 2022 3:35 pm
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Liminality wrote a review...

Hiya alliyah! Here is Lim with your review!

First Impressions

The first thing that strikes me about this poem is that it’s very complex. At times the speaker seems to self-contradict, but then returns a more nuanced interpretation that is not so contradictory on a second or third read. (so yes, these aren’t first-read impressions I’m sorry xD) I can say that one of my first-read thoughts was that the speaker’s tone seems a little frustrated, which I think I felt because of how the idea of the destination never being reachable was repeated, such as in the title (“may as well be infinite”) and the three lines in C. that make it seem like nothing here is being done “easily”. The poem makes me think of someone who’s trapped, with images like
“engraved in your bones”, and also isolated, given that the people mentioned in the poem are all far away, like the mother, 80% of America and the great-grandfather’s family.

Overall Narrative[b]
From what I gather, the poem seems to describe the speaker’s relationship to a ‘home’. I don’t think they are literally travelling in this piece, because of the contradictions and paradoxes employed like:

i am from somewhere far from here. i am not home yet.

. . . i know if i can find the stars, i know i can follow them. and the night is not infinite.

As well as “wildly far and impossibly close”, which seems purposeful.
Instead, it seems that the speaker is describing an account of physical places that might lead them to a physical ‘home’ but at the same time showing that their attitude towards those places makes them distant from home, if that makes sense. For example, “trying to cross these plains” suggests the speaker is in movement metaphorically/attitudinally, as it is followed up with figurative expressions like “moon caught burning in my throat”. Whereas the more literal part of that stanza seems to represent echoes of the physical/cultural place, employing the expression “where i'm from we don’t complain about the weather” and it also suggests that they’re already in the farm land described in the second-to-last stanza, even though this one is still located in the Chasm. (also noticed the transition from “I” to “we”.)


Something that I appreciate about the poem is how you play with the speaker’s voice. At times it feels purposefully inconsistent to highlight the contradictory sides of the speaker: at home in the physical/cultural world, but not at home on some individual/ mental level. There is a contrast for example between these two:
thinking the sky looks like rain, thinking the sand feels tide-chased . . .

The imagery again is more figurative and it also blends what we usually consider to be separate aspects of nature together (sky/water and sand/sea). The voice here is more out-of-this-world and more like the speaker is saying thoughts in their own head.
i am from a river-city, a transit oasis, a curved wrist – hand-tilling the earth . . . brow

Whereas here the sensory descriptions increase as though this line is spoken from the physical level again, with images like “curved wrist” and “brush the sweat across your brow”. This voice seems more ‘social’ and grounded in the world.
I like that this contrast seems to be repeated across all sections of the ‘map’ – the voice at first seeming contemplative and spinning far away and then suddenly being grounded again. It’s an interesting thing to discover on a careful read, and it helps support the narrative of the speaker having contrary sides to themself.

Flow and Continuity

There were a couple of lines that remain a bit hard for me to process, so I thought I’d discuss them here.
In B. Steps – I felt like the switch from “you remember again to listen” to “you have 3 missed calls from your mother” was a bit odd. On one level, it’s abrupt and I think to good effect since I’m thinking missed calls are usually sudden realisations. On another level, I usually think of ‘seeing’ that I have a missed call, and not so much listening for it because well, it’s been missed. I could be misinterpreting something here though!
In E.
and surely the sun couldn’t become a cup of concave soil where light grows from the earth?

I couldn’t really understand how this related to the rest of the stanza, which seems to be about a farm divided a long time ago, and the speaker’s feeling of being cut off from something. The mix of sun/earth metaphors here is a bit hard to fit into that. The line also runs on for what feels like a long time, which makes it a little overwhelming for me.
I also thought the structure of “i don’t get lost . . . easily” felt a bit unsmooth? That might have been intentional, but the repeated “easily” sets it up to be a very symmetrical set of phrases, but the symmetry is interrupted by the second one being joined by an “or” and the last suddenly switching back to “I don’t”.


As always I enjoy how you develop strands of imagery in your poetry! The whole poem seems to be set in a particular place: an agricultural/wilderness region that is occasionally juxtaposed with a distant “river-city”. I like the different views given on ‘water’, from the ocean to rain and the river. I thought that created a sense of breadth to them poem’s world and added opportunities to develop the speaker’s complex feelings, such as in “the river tied around my lungs” vs “we need the rain”.


I thought this was a solid poem overall that explores some of your key themes like home, distance, the past, and maybe paradoxes/opposites/ironies as well. The piece leaves me with a conflicted feeling and a sense of things still left unresolved.

Hope some of this helps and feel free to ask for more feedback!

alliyah says...

Thank you so much for the terrific review Lim! You pulled a lot out of here that has given me a lot of insight for directions I might want to highlight if I do a rewrite too.

I think the most complicated aspect of the poem is that I was trying to refer to both tangible & intangible "homecoming" - the intangible could be interpreted as the cultural/emotional elements of a home or a more spiritualized home -> ie. heaven or fate. You did a good job in your review highlighting the paradoxical aspect and drawing sense from the different threads here.

Great points on flow / continuity too - I agree those two lines you highlighted need to be integrated or removed. I think the first one gets a bit extra-confusing because I switched between first-person/second-person mid-stanza.

Thanks again for sharing all your thoughts and analysis! Very encouraging & helpful! :)

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105 Reviews

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Mon Aug 15, 2022 9:03 pm
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momonster wrote a review...

hay alliyah! i'm here with a review! my reviewing skills are a bit rusty, so this might be awful, but here goes c:

i absolutely loved this poem! i loved the title especially. the map is so cute, and i love how the stars are scattered throughout the whole route. i loved the imagery through the whole poem, and i loved the emphasis on i am from and that the journey isn't over yet. overall, it was a very lovable poem! now, i'm going to do my best to answer your questions!

1) what was the overall narrative or story you understood?
the story came across to me as a person on a journey. and while they're on this journey, they're discovering things about themselves and the world. it seems like a parallel to life as a whole: we're born, we live and learn, then our journey ends (supposedly ;)).

2) what images stuck with you?
in C - the chasm, this part:

i am not directionally challenged, only distance-challenged. only trying to cross these plains with a mountain tied to my back, and the river tied around my lungs, and the moon caught burning in my throat.

ahh, when i tell you something tingled in me when i read this line! i love it!

3) what parts did you think didn't fit with the flow of the overall piece?
the part about the great-grandfather's farm being split. i don't know, it just seemed out of place to me.

4) thoughts on format?
i adored it! i loved the list structure. it came across as more prose than poetry to me. i honestly think a prose category should be added in YWS. or make it poetry/prose. something like that lol.

amazing, fantastic, wonderful job! you did awesome with this one; as you usually do! <3

keep writing,

We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams.
— Arthur O'Shaughnessy