‘A Text About Reading The Letter’ by Riyas Qurana is a free verse poem with twelve stanzas dedicated to discussing a letter between a lover and his beloved. This poem truly dives into a relationship that never gets true closure and in consequence, the individuals are subject to suffering. It is a difficult situation when something so loved and treasured falls apart at the seams and there is nothing that can be done about it; that is exactly what this poem is about. You can read the full poem here and explore more Riyas Qurana poems here.
A Text About Reading The Letter Analysis
The words crawled like crabs
And the sea on the other.
The opening of Qurana’s ‘A Text About Reading The Letter,’ introduces the letter quite dramatically. The very first line of this stanza mentions that the words in the letter are crawling “like crabs”; Qurana is trying to paint an image of a letter that is unclear, so much so that it feels like the words were moving, sliding, or crawling on the paper itself. This also gives the impression that the message in this letter is going to be unclear or at least incomplete. Line two of this stanza lets the reader know that the letter in fact was incomplete as the words were found only on half of the paper. The word “drafted” presents the idea that there was only an outline of the intended message left. Line three confirms that the letter was incomplete because the sea was “on the other” half of the letter; implying that the writing had been washed away. This stanza also informs the reader that the letter in question was either found at sea or traveled through the sea at some point; the letter has a story.
The waves wiped away
That sauntered on the shore.
The second stanza of this poem describes in detail the condition of the second half of the letter. Line four explains that the letter truly was washed in the sea as “the waves wiped away” the text within. Line five exposes that the words were completely illegible as even their ‘foot paths” were washed away. Line five concludes the stanza by describing the words as ones that “sauntered on the shore”, this tells the readers that the reader of his letter did not get the intended message and it is as good as left onshore, where perhaps it started its journey in the hands of its writer. Even though the poem is just about a letter, it is conveying a story of the people that are deeply connected to its words.
Some words hollowed out the papers
A few words glided ashore towards the bay.
Stanza three presents the letter in quite an aggressive manner perhaps mirroring the emotions of aggression that the person who revived the letter must be feeling at the sight of the state of it. Line seven mentions that “some words” had “hollowed out the papers”, this could be literally or it could intend to portray that the words were so intense that they left holes in the text. Line eight continues to describe the letter as being destroyed, so much so that chunks of the words were physically missing where the paper had torn. Line nine is interesting as it depicts the” words gliding ashore towards the bay” implying that the words are not only lost but constantly moving so that they can keep their story alive and on the move.
I was playing like a careless child
That was bellowing like her memories.
Stanza four is important as it introduces the two main characters of the poem. Line ten is about an individual who describes himself to be carelessly playing like a child; this description exposes that he was aware of the fact that he was being careless and childish in his play, giving the reader some information about the individuals’ personality. Line eleven frames the individual “close to the sea”, automatically connecting him and the letter that has been washed up by the sea. Line twelve finally introduces the second character. there seems to be a woman whose memory the sea is screaming out to the individual. This woman also gets connected to the letter by being so closely related to the sea. In this stanza, the reader is able to detect a story of love and loss that perhaps has much to do with the letter and its lost words.
The slithering words on the shoreline
Could not be assembled and read.
Stanza five is actually a couplet and underlines the connection of this man, the letter, and the sea. Line thirteen mentions “slithering words” this relates to the reader that the words are not friendly or comforting, but rather repulsive and unwelcome. The shoreline seems to be brought back memories and experiences that are difficult for the individual to indulge in. Line fourteen further highlights the unpleasantness of the words by claiming that the words “could not be assembled and read”; basically saying that they didn’t tell a full story, these words were so full of memories and emotion that read without context they did not make much sense.
Whatever she tried to convey.
Stanza six is the longest stanza in the poem and begins to tell the story of the two characters outside the letter. The individual seems to be hoping and expecting the words to make sense to him as he tries to read them on the floor, because he associates these words with the woman trying to convey her own message to him. The sea seems to be a mediator between the two as they try to communicate and understand each other. However, it is also the sea that seems to be interfering with their union and communication as the letter was washed away and the words on the seashore are hard to comprehend.
Perhaps she had written
Here, in stanza seven the man seems to start assuming that the woman does not want to be clear in her communication, perhaps she wants to carry on without defining what it is she wants. Maybe she is happy by keeping him confused and at a distance. The reader can really see the desperation of the man as he tries to find meaning in the little communication he has received from the woman. By now it is safe to assume that the two are or at least were in a romantic relationship and have suffered through losing each other either physically or through lack of communication.
Stanza eight gives the reader a better understanding of the letter in relation to the characters. The man has received the letter that has been battered by the sea from his beloved or once beloved. The letter has opened up feelings of confusion and lack of closure for the man. The relationship is one that is obviously struggling and the man is being hit by waves of feelings, emotions, scenes of the past that are not helping him at all in understanding this tattered letter.
I often yearn to dive into the paper
But vacillate and remain at the shore
Stanza nine is a couplet and focuses on the indecisive emotions of the man and how he feels trapped by them. The man confesses to wanting more specifically “yearning” to dive into the letter, hoping for a better understanding, a better connection with his beloved but has to force himself to stay put. perhaps she chose to walk away and he is doing all he can just to stay onshore and just watch her sail away.
Once she had written and forwarded the rain
On one sunny day
Stanza ten is powerful as the character displays how much her letters impact him. in this stanza the reader witnesses the power that this woman has over this man. She is able to change his “sunny day” meaning a day full of life and happiness into one of rain, specifically the rain she was witnessing herself. it seems whenever he communicates with her he is left feeling upset. She drags him down with her when she is suffering. This stanza displays quite clearly the level of the man’s attachment to his woman.
Her eyes were swimming
Reading the rain endlessly.
Stanza eleven exposes the man and how he still searches for his beloved. He sees her eyes in the letters he receives and can feel the rain that she describes. He is so invested in her that he can feel what she feels and see her in front of him even in her absence. He is hopelessly in love with a woman who seems to be confused about what she wants.
The ground and the ocean
The conclusion of this poem exposes that there does not have to be a physical letter from his woman in order for him to remember her or her words. the world around him reminds him of her in every way. everything haunts him because the skies and the oceans are his letters.