Notes from the Road

interloper's picture

Strange and beautiful
You appeared, beautiful
I think
I know you,
But what do I know?
Text me
Mixed messages. Test me.
I want you
To want me
To please you. You tease me,
Appease me, confuse me,
Excite me, unease me.
It's easy.
I don't think
I know you,
But what do I know?
Strange and beautiful. You appeared


interloper's picture


Your analysis is pretty insightful. It is definitely about duality. This is how I would explain it:

In this poem I was attempting to express the tension and conflict of having strong opposing emotions about a person/situation. At the basic level, In the beginning there is a strong sense of attraction and familiarity, about someone not yet known, this is internal, first person and visceral and it lies at the base of it all. On the other hand there are feelings of confusion and distance, stemming from the ensuing action. The confusion comes from the actions of the external, the second person. The poem can be read two ways, one seems to resolve somewhat, but the other doesn't. If you read the poem straight through, ignoring the line breaks, the basic message is fairly straightforward and somewhat resolved. 

Strange and beautiful you appeared, beautiful stranger. I think I know you, but what do I know? Text me mixed messages. Test me. I want you to want me to please you. You tease me, appease me, confuse me, excite me, unease me. It's easy. I don't think I know you, but what do I know? Strange and beautiful. You appeared beautiful.

Paraphrased: I meet a beautiful stranger, I feel like I know her. Her actions are confounding. At the end the strangeness is intact but the beauty and familiarity becomes questioned due to the actions.

But the feelings aren't really that concrete or simple and I wanted to express and amplify the ambiguity using the line breaks. Most lines, if read with the breaks and ignoring punctuation impart a slightly different or even opposing meaning. For example:

In the first part, Strange and beautiful you appeared, beautiful stranger. can be read as: Strange and beautiful…You appeared beautiful…Stranger.  And then: I think I know you, becomes I think…I know you. And so on. 

In the middle I broke up I want you to want me to please you. so that the meaning of each subsequent  line changes the meaning of the previous lines if they are read one at a time. I want youI want you to want meI want you to want me to please you. 

In the end, I don't think I know you, becomes I don't think…I know you, which has pretty much the opposite meaning and finally Strange and beautiful. You appeared beautiful. becomes Strange and beautiful you appeared…Beautiful. Also very different.

Paraphrased: I meet someone who appears beautiful but she is strange, I wasn't thinking correctly, but later I really do know who she is, and I still think she is beautiful.

So in the end, underneath the appearance of resolution, nothing is really resolved and  I am not sure how to feel or what is true, and this duality is hopefully expressed through the possible differing interpretations because of the line breaks.

jrlewis's picture

really a duality?

While I enjoyed this poem, I found it very disconcerting to read.  I suspect that is due to repeated use of the second person singular, you.  Internal to the poem is the relationship between the narrator and the you.  Outside the poem, there is the reader's relationship to the narrator.  This relationship is complicated by the use of the word you.  The you of the poem is possibly the reader, there is no concrete information about the you to contradict this interpretation.  So is there also a duality of reader-narrator?  Or is the reader, the third person in the poem?  Is this really a triangle?

interloper's picture


I guess I have been experimenting with and learning about the power of perspective. A couple months ago I wrote All Along in the second person view, but in reality that poem is a stream of conciousness in which I am addressing myself. The intent there was to use the second person perspective making the thought processes and raw emotion less distant and more tangible to the reader. The message was intended to be universal, independent of perspective, but I hoped I would be more successful in conveying that message if I presented it to the reader as though they are being told about their own internal struggle.

Love and desire are powerful, overwhelming emotions. How can they be conveyed properly? This poem is technically written in the first person view in describing the narrator's thoughts and emotions, but it also addresses the subject by switching to the second person, and I did this for the same reason I used that perspective when I wrote about the concept of hope in All Along, to try to make the powerful emotion and the struggle of the narrator more direct and tangible to the reader. It's up to the reader to choose whether to approach this poem from the perspective of the narrator, the subject, or both. Both is my intent, but the reader will take their own view.

You say you felt disconcerted by my use of the second person narration. Would you like this poem better if I had approached it differently? My other choice would have been to use the third person subjective. I feel that perspective would have created a greater distance between the reader and the two characters though, and lessened the impact. In either case, the reader can still choose to see things from the perspective of the narrator, the subject, or as a third person viewing from outside. It is ultimately up to the reader, isn't it?

jrlewis's picture

knowing beauty

There are several interesting dualities set up in this poem.  There is appearance vs. reality, strange vs. familiar, and 1st person vs. 2nd person.  Some of the dualities are resolved, some are not.  However, I suspect that all the dualities might simplify to two distinct entities.  On one side: reality, familiar, 1st person and on the other side: appearance, strange, 2nd person.  So the meta-duality might be the self and other? 

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