‘In Your Mind’ by Carol Ann Duffy is a four-stanza poem that is separated into sets of six lines or sestets. The poem does not contain a structured or consistent rhyme scheme. The lines are somewhat similar in length and run together to create a narrative. The poet has chosen to tell a story through this work with a second-person narrator. The main character is the reader who is taken through a series of dream-like memories of a trip to another country.
The poem begins with the speaker stating that there is another country in the mind of her intended listener and that “you” are able to “put aside your work” and travel there.
It is here that this person feels most at home. Everything is oddly familiar. From the people to the job, hotels, and streets. Before long there the past has faded away. The simpler, presumably less pleasant real-life led by this person never existed.
By the end of the poem the speaker has made a home in this imaginary world but is forced back to the present. “You” are once more made to confront the “English rain” which is still pouring down on “your” real home.
Analysis of In Your Mind
The speaker begins this piece by asking her listeners a question. “You” are thinking of a country, a place “you” can barely recall. The memory is so loose that “you” do not know whether it is “anticipated,” meaning it was created, or “half-remembered.” It is as if “you” know enough about the place to have visited before, but not enough to fully recall if you have actually been there.
At this point in the poem, it is unclear what sent this speaker to thoughts of another country or whether these almost-memories are good or bad. In the next two lines, the speaker centres the setting and informs the reader where the poem will take place. “You” are in England and it is an “autumn” day. It is raining outside now, as it has been all “afternoon.” The world “you” are attempting to penetrate is “muffled by the rain.”
Although England is attempting to keep “you” in the present, “you” are able to, “in your mind” set work to one side and “head for the airport.” Everything which is to follow from now until the end of the poem occurs within the speaker’s listener’s mind. This listener is embarking on a journey which will end in an unknown country.
The character which the speaker is crafting is heading off to the airport. This person has with them..
…a credit card and a warm coat you will leave
On the plane.
This small entertaining detail adds a realistic element to the narrative. Although everything is not going perfectly, the…
…past fades like newsprint in the sun.
The listener to whom this poem is directed is heading off on an adventure that this person does not even fully understand.
In the second stanza, the speaker’s character has made it to their destination. This person, as they were in the first lines, is recalling some elements of this place. He/she sees the residents of the city or town and “know[s]” them. It is still unclear if there is a real reason this is occurring or if “you” are simply engaging in a repetition of memory. It is likely that the main character frequently engages in this kind of daydreaming and the faces of those in “your” mind are common sights.
The next phrase states that these images are like…
On the wrong side of your eyes
The memories are so vague it is like seeing photographs inside one’s head rather than real emotion-tinted recollections.
The next lines bring the poem into a daydream-like world in which phrases seem to slip into and out of the narrative without too much direction. The main character is at a “harbour” sitting at a bar and a “beautiful boy” asks…
…if men could possibly land on the moon.
The speaker replies by saying, “No.” This could not happen. He/she sees the moon at this moment as being “like an orange drawn by a child.” Other thoughts and experiences are intruding on the dream. “No,” “you” state, this could “Never” happen.
In the third stanza, the speaker continues to describe the strange trip “you” are on. This person wakes from sleep to the “rasp of carpentry.” The sounds of construction rouse the main character and “you” look around the room. This place, like all others, visited in the narrative, is familiar it feels as if “you” have returned home after a number of years. It is like “you” belong here.
The intended listener of this piece leaves the hotel to go to their job. There are a few navigational directions which are followed by a profession of love. “You” love the word “you” are engaged in as well as the sounds on the street. There are “Seagulls” and Bells.” There is also the sound of…
…A flute practising scales.
On the way home from work “you” buy a “fish.” The narrative is taking on the feeling of a routine. This place is now the main character’s home. It has become a normal part of their life.
In the final stanza of the poem “you” are thrust back into reality. This shock is preceded by a few more moments of peace in which “you” are walking the streets of the city, “dawdling on the blue bridge,” and watching the swans swimming in the water. The main character of the poem is so comfortable where he/she is that it is like all the “lights” turn on all over town. The world is lit up by a feeling of comfort.
The last two lines bring the poem back to its beginning. The main character is forced from this daydream back to the “desk,” “newspaper,” “window,” and the “English rain.”