Form, structure and language


The poem presents itself as a first-person account of an émigrée’s relationship with her homeland. However, given the place is not named, the poem offers a more general consideration of the relationship between people, the places they left behind in childhood and to which they are unable to return. The lack of specific details about the émigrée’s homeland imples that the poem may not be in any sense directly autobiographical. The speaker of the poem may be fictional and the city itself imaginary.


The poem is composed of three stanzas. The first two stanzas are eight lines each and the last stanza has nine lines. Why there’s an extra line is unclear. Perhaps it suggests the speaker just can’t let go of the memories and just doesn’t want the poem to end?

The poem does not use rhyme, but there is a suggestion of a rhythmic pattern of five stresses to the line - although this pattern never fully establishes itself as a regular rhythm. Perhaps this reflects the speaker’s state of mind, which though positive in many ways is also uneasy, unsettled and complex.


A silhouette of a girl running across the land
The city in the poem could be an extended metaphor for a lost childhood

The language appears to be natural and without artificial devices, but this apparent plainness hides a large amount of figurative language:

  • Rumens makes great use of metaphor; memories include ‘the bright, filled paperweight’; the city’s brutal tyrant rulers are a sickness; the speaker is ‘branded’ by sunlight; time ‘rolls its tanks’ and every word of a grammar is a ‘coloured molecule’. Perhaps the whole city is an extended metaphor, a symbol of the lost childhood to which no adult can return.
  • Rumens also uses similes in 'frontiers rise between us, close like waves’ and ‘That child’s vocabulary I carried here/ like a hollow doll’. Rumens’ use of simile (and metaphor) perhaps suggests the way in which the speaker is shaping her memories and making up her own narrative about her relationship with her homeland.
  • The city is personified and Rumens perhaps makes a play on words when she describes it flying to her ‘in its own white plane’. As well as an aeroplane, a secondary meaning of ‘plane’ as something flat and level, may suggest a sheet of white paper. The poet may be teasingly suggesting that her city exists only in her poem and is an imaginary place. The fairytale like personification further adds to this sense of unreality.