‘Tea at Sunrise’ by Riyas Qurana is a free verse poem of eleven stanzas written in the first person about a sunrise that is anticipated to flip life upside-down. The main character has suffered in life by making decisions that lead her to have a life opposite of what she wanted and so she hopes for a daybreak that would make everything backward and give her the happiness she wanted to experience. you can read the full poem here.
Analysis of Tea at Sunrise
for the crack of dawn
yet i must!
The first stanza of this poem introduces the setting. There is a character waiting at “the crack of dawn” regretting the day that has just gone by knowing it can never be returned to her. The first line alone emphasizes the importance of her waiting. It represents her anticipation for change, her hope for better. Lines two and three explain exactly what this character is waiting for: “the crack of dawn/ of an expired day”; these lines tell the reader that the character has been through something significant and as a result, is desperately waiting for the next day to arrive. Perhaps the character is looking forward to a new beginning. Line four displays an air of regret and nostalgia as she exclaims that things that go by can never be brought back. The reader becomes aware that the character is still hesitant about the new coming day but still desperately awaits it. Line five pursues the suspense the stanza has created by simply admitting that she “must”. She must what? The answer is: wait. The story of her eagerness is yet to unfold throughout the rest of the poem.
i walk back from dusk
oh that must be my seista!
The second stanza begins with the character to describe her panicked walk. Line seven displays her clouded memory of the event as she quickly explains that no, she didn’t walk but did think about it. At this point, the reader is wondering exactly what is causing such panic and anxiety for the character. Line eight continues to drive the suspense as the character declares she has not seen anything for a while; is she looking for something? And if so why is she waiting for it at this hour? The final line of this stanza doesn’t do much to relieve the buildup of suspense as the character exclaims “oh that must be my siesta!”. The slow increase in mystery in the last two stanzas keeps the reader’s attention and also implies that she has a secret that she isn’t willing to expose just yet.
though its just a pretension
Stanza three is a couplet that speaks volumes about the main character. The two lines simply express that upon noticing someone she acts startled, although she is not as she has been waiting for this exact moment in quite the anxiety. She feels the need to act startled to make the situation or encounter seem as natural as possible, although that is quite impossible considering the setting. This couplet also suggests that the character is very much in control of the way she is acting despite her panicky demeanor.
Stanza four unfolds in the very first line that the character is troubled. Right away the reader can tell that something is out of place. She was looking forward to this moment quite desperately, for her to be troubled at this point means she miscalculated something. The story here takes a turn. It seems that she is watching herself take back a letter that she had once “bequeathed”. This stanza is very confusing as the character refers to herself in the third person. “In dream” here is suggesting that the event of handing down the letter never actually took place and was actually a figment of her imagination.
yes! it’s not like this?
becomes the recepient as time moves back.
Here in the fifth stanza of ‘Tea at Sunrise’, a very interesting concept is introduced by the character. Apparently, as time moves backward it undoes what happens and flips the scenario so the recipient becomes the one who gives. It seems that either the character is trapped in wishful thinking or she has reached an alternate reality in which everything she was running away from while hoping for the new day has turned backward so that not only is everything undone but it reverses the events causing opposite circumstances to take place. One would only wish for such reality if they had made many mistakes they wished to not only erase but flip around to change the course of events.
lets really contemplate
The sixth stanza yet again takes a turn as the character asks for forgiveness and asks the reader to join her as she “really” contemplates. As the reader makes it to this part of the poem he or she realizes that the main character is not only unpredictable but untrustworthy. She seems to jump from one place to the next without explaining herself or her train of thought. She asks for forgiveness without giving a reason almost as if to say she understands that she does not make much sense. Then, she asks the reader to join in contemplation, hopefully, to clarify her story as so far the reader knows nothing more than confusion and anxiety.
the sun is at its peak
back into the well.
the water leaves my hair dry
In stanza seven the character describes the sun being at its peak, so probably a time in the afternoon when it gets the warmest. The setting has changed to a time in the afternoon in which she knows is hot but chooses to wear a dress that is not suited to the weather. The diction implies that this is a common occurrence for her. Remember that things are still playing out backward, so instead of it being cold and her wearing clothing that is for warmer weather the opposite is happening. She goes to take a shower but the water is being poured back into the well and leaves her hair dry instead of wet. This stanza allows the reader to get a view of her day but in a manner that completely misconstrues the events.
i cycle backward to the market
people move forward gaping at me astounded
they have never tried to meet
the expired morn
Stanza eight continues in the absurd reality that the character is narrating. She cycles back to the market, meaning she had left there in reality. In this market that she is wheeling into backward, there are people who stare at her shocked because they have never met a person who was suffering internally. The reader can interpret the stanza as the character cycling through the market place and no one actually noticed her because it is so common for people to suffer internally for whatever reason. This stanza helps the reader understand that the character felt ignored and lonely.
he and me
we walked side by side
he forward and me backward
In the ninth stanza of ‘Tea at Sunrise’ the character reminisces walking side by side through the market place with her significant other. Now, in this alternate reality she claims they walk separately speaking a language of no importance, hence her reference to babbling. The important point in this stanza is that the reach home; this tells the reader that she probably never reached a place of comfort or homeliness with her significant other. Again the reader gets a little window to examine the desperation she shows in the first stanza, she never truly made it home with the man she wished to walk side by side with.
the birds chirp,
drinking a steaming cup of tea
Stanza ten paints a completely new picture in regards to the loss and hurt that have been mentioned in the previous stanzas. Here she sits drinking a warm cup of tea as the birds chirp and the dawn brings calmness to the scene. If the reader continues to translate this stanza as the previous ones it seems that she never got her cup of tea and the calmness that she probably so desired in her life. This also tells the reader that she wanted her life to be full of scenes of nature and life and simple happiness but never actually got to experience it.
was not this cup of tea, i missed
not once but twice and again!
Stanza eleven is the final stanza of ‘Tea at Sunrise’ and concludes the character’s story by expressing to the reader that it wasn’t just a cup of tea that she missed out on that is causing her to wish for the opposites and backwardness. It was so much more than that and so she does not regret this alternate reality and would visit or create it multiple times.