Stanzas one and two

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I am moving in the dead of night

The poem opens with the mother getting ready to leave their home. There is a contrast between her "moving" and the expression "dead of night", which implies that she is doing something furtive that she shouldn't be doing. Kay creates a rhythm to her actions with the repetition of present participles "moving", "packing", "turning". This emphasises the pace of her activity and evokes a sense of urgency.

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My fingers tie knots like fish nets
Photo of hands knotting a fishing net on Lagdo Lake
Kay uses the image of hands knotting a fishing net to suggest rushed packing and the woman's anxiety

This simile "My fingers tie knots like fish nets" suggests she is pulling together all her possessions, arranging her things in her effort not to leave anything behind. It might also suggest a past life that the woman has come from, where she may have been involved in mending real nets. The idea of fingers knotting and moving creates an image of the woman’s anxiety reflected in her hands fidgeting.

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I want to be in my mother’s house

The speaker craves security. This in turn links her to her daughter. The speaker herself wants her mother to protect her, just as she wants to keep her daughter safe. The idea that this security is to be found among women runs throughout the poem. Her mother, however, is far away from her. This distance which is highlighted by the enjambment between stanzas one and two.

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Boxes;/ I can't see out of the back window.

From the great distance between daughter and mother we suddenly move to an almost claustrophobic atmosphere created in stanza two. We get the impression that the inside of the car is piled high with all their belongings. The fact that she "can't see" what is behind her suggests there is no going back.

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Leila is a bundle in her car seat.

The first mention of Leila suggests that she is wrapped up and protected by her mother. It could also suggest she is a thing – just a “bundle” like the other belongings that have been crammed into the car. Perhaps Kay is suggesting that this child (and her mother) are not being treated as people.