‘Crossroads’ by Ocean MisT is a short, simple poem that embodies the very human argument between the head and the heart.
Throughout the poem, the speaker presents the reader with a series of questions. Beneath the different images, there are two distinct possibilities for their future. Either they should ford new ground or follow a pre-made path that leads to simple happiness.
Poetic Techniques in Crossroads
‘Crossroads’ by Ocean MisT is a four stanza poem that is separated into sets of four lines, known as quatrains. These quatrains follow an even rhyme scheme of ABAB CDCD, and so on, changing end sounds as the writer saw fit. The only time the pattern changes in the last stanza. In the fourth stanza, the pattern repeats the same end sound used in lines two and four of the first stanza. This helps conclude the poem and create a sense of unity with the previous stanzas. There are also examples of internal rhyme in ‘Crossroads’. It is not constrained to the end of the lines but can appear anywhere. For instance, “leaves” and “breeze” in the third stanza.
Half-rhyme, also known as slant or partial rhyme, can also be seen. It is seen through the repetition of assonance or consonance. This means that either a vowel or consonant sound is reused within one line, or multiple lines of verse. For example, “Strive” and “life” in the first stanza and, also in the first stanza, “stream,” “sea” and “be”.
You can read the full poem here.
Other Poetic Techniques
Ocean MisT makes use of several other techniques in ‘Crossroads’. These include alliteration, repetition, anaphora, and enjambment. Repetition or the use and reuse of various elements within a piece of poetry is seen through anaphora and alliteration. The former, anaphora, is the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of multiple lines, usually in succession. For example, “Follow the” at the beginnings of lines one through three of the third stanza as well as “Follow my” at the beginning of lines one and two of the fourth stanza. “Shall” and “Or” are other examples in the first two stanzas.
Alliteration occurs when words are used in succession, or at least appear close together, and begin with the same letter. It is used prominently throughout the text. For instance, “Shall” and “stream” in line one of the first stanza, as well as “spell success” in line two of the second stanza.
Another important technique that is commonly used in poetry is enjambment. This occurs when a line is cut off before its natural stopping point. It forces a reader down to the next line, and the next, quickly. One has to move forward in order to comfortably resolve a phrase or sentence. It is used less frequently in this poem than in others, but examples can be found in the first stanza, such as the transition between lines three and four.
Read the full poem here.
Analysis of Crossroads
Shall I follow the stream
Or let life be?
In the first stanza of ‘Crossroads,’ the speaker begins by asking the reader a question. It takes up all four lines of this stanza. As the poem goes on though the questions become more frequent and more frantic. They are all rhetorical, meaning that the speaker is not looking for an answer from a specific listener or reader. Instead, they are being aired in order to address a larger problem the speaker is facing and is hoping to work out
The first question is in regard to whether or not the speaker should “follow the stream” or “cross the sea”. This is a clear metaphor for following a pre-made path, although not simple to navigate, or fording new ground across the ocean. If the speaker chooses the latter, or if anyone does for that matter, they’ll be faced with a much more difficult road.
There is a second question intertwined with the first, but without end-line punctuation, the two flow together as though they were one. The second proposes what seems like a second option but is really just a reiteration of the first. It asks if the speaker should “Strive for a dream” or let their life “be” as it is. Just as with the metaphor about the river and sea, this one also offers a complicated, difficult option and an easier one.
Shall it be neon lights
The second stanza of ‘Crossroads’ is structured slightly differently than the first. This time there is only one question, drawn out through the four short lines. The speaker asks themself, if they should seek out booming, widely known success, or be happy with something simpler. The easier option is the latter. It might make more sense, they consider, to accept the “flickering lamplight / For happiness.”
Follow the thunder?
That leaves and breeze form?
The third stanza of ‘Crossroads’ is made up of three different questions. These questions are shorter than those that appeared in the first two stanzas but don’t present the reader with any new ground to tackle. The speaker, as if flitting from image to image, considers whether they should “Follow the thunder” or the “storm.” Or, if they should “Follow” the quieter, easier option, the “leaves and breeze” that whisper as they move.
Follow my heartbeat?
Where shall each lead?
In the fourth stanza of ‘Crossroads,’ the speaker presents the final four questions. In these lines, they use the first person possessive pronoun “my” and speak personally about themselves. They want to know if they should “Follow” their “heartbeat” or their “head.” This is the simplest, most commonly known and easily relatable comparison thus far. The “head or the heart” is a cliche in its application within contemporary writing and conversation. Should the speaker do what their head thinks is sensical? Or what their heart takes joy in?
The last two lines look at the situation more broadly and hint at the fact that the speaker might be able to come to a conclusion sometime in the future. They consider the different paths that might appear in front of them and what “each” could “bring” them.