Riding Alone For Thousands Of Miles, Sally Wen Mao – an Analysis

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Title
This sounds like a beautiful, epic travel plan. I’ll start packing…

Gut Reaction
Oh dear. This one’s a little too close to the bone for my liking…

What does it all mean?
In Lijiang, the sign outside your hostel
glares: Ride alone, ride alone, ride
alone – it taunts you for the mileage
of your solitude, must be past

thousands, for you rode this plane
This sounds so much like me, I guess this must have been why I chose this poem a few weeks ago, and am only getting back to it now. It’s that sense of loving the kind of life where you don’t know where you’ll be tomorrow, always travelling and moving forward, and then, out of the blue, the stark reminder that you’re always, always alone. And whilst solitude is definitely your thing, it’s your thing most of the time. Sometimes, you just need to have something, someone else in your life, and you realise, you don’t actually have anyone. Sometimes, like this sign, it’s a bleak reminder that you are perpetually alone. Especially when you keep telling yourself that this is what you want. Because it isn’t, not always. The mileage just serves to remind you of how long you have been travelling alone.

thousands, for you rode this plane
alone, this train alone, you’ll ride
this bus alone well into the summer night,
well into the next hamlet, town,

city, the next century, as the trees twitch
Just a further continuation of how far you’ve come, alone. Now, that in itself could be a positive thing – you’ve done it all alone, you’re strong, resourceful. And you are, and you’re happy with that. But sometimes, it’s good to have someone else to lean on. It’s also a reminder that you’ve done a lot – plane, train, bus, hamlet, town, city – you’ve seen so much more than you would have done had you stayed ‘home’. It’s a reminder that this is your future, always travelling, never stopping.

city, the next century, as the trees twitch
and the clouds wane and the tides
quiver and the galaxies tilt and the sun
spins us another lonely cycle, you’ll
Just another reminder of how endless this feels. Nature will continue to go about its business and will mark out yet another year of you being out there, alone.

spins us another lonely cycle, you’ll

wonder if this compass will ever change.
The sun doesn’t need more heat,
so why should you? The trees don’t need
to be close, so why should you?
Is there ever going to be a sense of direction? Is there ever going to be something that points to ‘home’? Is there really ever going to be a ‘home’? We can either take this final stanza to mean ‘I don’t need anything else but myself’ – ‘the sun doesn’t need more heat, so why should you?’ – but then if that is true, why are you comparing yourself to things that are, for want of a better word, inanimate? The sun moves, but it isn’t like it has feeling and seeks out other suns for company. The same is true for trees. Why are you classing yourself up there with an ‘inanimate’ form of nature instead of with other people?

Form – the vaguely technical stuff
Division and order
Four stanzas that don’t so much have a story but a whirling round of emotions that suggest overthinking of a long thought through subject.

Tone
It’s a bit despairing, isn’t it?

Suggested rhyme scheme
There’s a little assonance, a little consonance, but not a lot of end rhyming.

Similes and metaphors
I think the strongest ‘metaphor’ for me is that the author of this piece is essentially comparing themselves to thing that don’t need anything else. Clouds, the sun, trees – all things that are not sat down by worried parents asking when they’re going to pair off and settle down.

Author’s relationship with their subject
I’m probably putting myself far too far into this author’s own shoes but it sounds to me that the author is both author and subject, and that they’re not as such feeling sorry for themselves but feeling a bit… hopeless at the bleakness of always being alone.

Other points of view (ideas from other sources)
Well. There’s the film of the same title, but while there are some parallels it’s not exactly related.

Signing off
Sigh.
This poem is a little too honest for me – and not that that is a criticism of it, it’s just that is is too true to my character. Because whilst I don’t understand the concept of settling and don’t class anywhere as home, just a stopping point. Whilst I love travelling and the feeling of not being tied to anyone, anywhere, or anything. Even though I love being my own person and my independence. Sometimes… just sometimes it would be nice to be surrounded by like-minded people who you could share that with.

I really do like this poem, despite how it may sound. Sometimes I think you need a little bleakness as a reminder – in this case perhaps to be around people I like for a while rather than intentionally isolating myself from the world. It doesn’t mean I’m ready for a full flash mob of team building but… people are good to have around. Sometimes. For short periods. On my terms.

…I’m essentially a tree, aren’t I? 🙂

Links

Poetry Foundation

When I read this I think of the song… Bless the broken road

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