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Look down
You’re on
Wood swaying on
Mist and fog obscure
Boards of wood on
Slow waves.

For the fog to clear,
You’ll have to wait.
Now, you could step off,
The board might capsize,
And you could swim to shore.

You stay.
You can’t see the waves,
But they comfort you.
The wait is long,
But you’re willing
To see
Whether this is a board or a boat,
Whether the water is kind.
You pray.


© Kate Eunah Lee, 12/30/2017


Author’s note:

First stanza – lots of cool enjambment techniques! First line is a command “Look down” and ends on “down,” and with the line ending like that, it’s like a cliff. You have to read DOWN to the next line. I wrote these first few lines being really sensitive to line structure. They’re stepwise and paint a picture of the subject looking down and seeing that he/she is standing on top of some wood that is swaying on water(?). The question mark comes as a surprise, because nowhere else in the entire poem do we see question marks! Every other punctuation is somewhat boring – commas, periods, or lack thereof. We understand that the speaker/subject are UNSURE whether the wood is on water. Perhaps they can only see the wood.
The last two lines of this stanza SPECIFY/ add details to what has already been established before. The wood isn’t just wood – we learn that it’s a board. The water has slow wave-like motion. This stanza SETS UP the metaphor. What the metaphor is, you can guess for now OR choose it to mean anything relevant to you, but I’ll clarify later.

Second stanza – This stanza now provides some DIRECTION. Some choices. Bidirectionality here, represented in the two sentences that make up the stanza. Ending the first sentence/ first choice with “wait” and starting the second sentence/second choice with “Now” → shows the bifurcation! Hypotheticals “could,” “might,” and “could” again in the second line to demonstrate further uncertainty. The choices are – stay and wait it out (boring, potentially safe?) or leave (exciting, potentially safe?).

Third stanza – This stanza narrates the subject’s ultimate DECISION, and why he/she chose that. The stanza starts and ends with SIMPLE sentences – subject/verb, no predicate – which perhaps provides some solidity and an air of resoluteness to the decision. These two lines also rhyme, providing good closure for such a conclusion and concluding stanza. Second and third sentences show conflict and resolution with the repetition of similar sentences structure and conjunction “but.” Perhaps isolating “to see” helps in a few ways – 1) enjambment afterwards and lots of space kind of mimic the act of someone looking outwards, 2) reader can meditate on the two words, and they’re significant here because SEEING is a problem because of the mist/fog and uncertainty of the waters. Repetition of “whether” and again *two* things to find out. Thematic repetition of TWO of things – to emphasize the TWO choices / bring up the bidirectionality again. Ends on a hopeful note – “pray” – because this conclusion is just a conclusion to hope for good. It’s not a conclusion of something happening/an actual resolution.


Metaphor was – the feeling of UNCERTAINTY to the situation of someone standing on what seems to be a board of wood, on what seems to be water, but they can’t be sure… the wood could be just a piece of wood (bad) or a nice well-constructed boat! Water could be mean or nice.


Valid extra argument: You could also say that the repetition of structure, words, and there being *two* of things → helps mimic the water’s swaying motion.


Hope you enjoyed!


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