Peter Skrzynecki: “Immigrant Chronicle”
“Crossing the Red Sea”
The poem focuses on the journey of migrants travelling by boat to a new country.
The title implies that a journey is being embarked on. “Crossing”.
The poem is made up of 5 sections, each one relating to a different stage of the migrants’ journey.
Use of 3rd person. “Themselves a landscape/ Of milk-white flesh.” 3rd person allows the journey of the migrants to be told from the perspective of a witness.
Switches to 1st person in section 2. “As we crossed a sea”. Gives the migrants’ perspective and describes how they felt.
Personification of abstracts.
“Memories strayed”. “Time was hoisting/ In mock salute” Creates different moods and helps to emphasise the feelings of the migrants.
Use of dialogue.
“I remember a field of poppies, once behind the forest/ When the full moon rose”.
Allows an insight to be given into the migrants’ thoughts.
Suggests of re-birth.
Overall, a sad tone is apparent throughout the poem. May be seen through the references to:
“Or to watch a sunset/ They would never see again”
“Memories strayed/ From behind sunken eyes…That shared their secrets/With storms and exiles.”
The reoccurring images of death:
“Blood/ Leaves similar dark stains-/ When it runs for a long time / On stones or rusted iron.”
“That brought a reminder/ Of people listening to requiems.”
“Had we talked/ Of death/ Perhaps something/ More than time/ Would have been lost.”
“As they beckoned towards/ A blood-rimmed horizon”
Concepts: A journey is inevitable
“To watch a sunset/ They would never see again”
Suggests that this journey is taking the migrants away from things that they once knew.
“That shared their secrets/ With storms and exiles”
Use of the word “exile”, suggests permanent banishment, never allowed to return.
“As they beckoned towards/ A blood-rimmed horizon/ Beyond whose waters/ The equator/ Was still to be crossed.”
The journey is constantly, moving forward. There is still a section of the journey that must be completed: crossing the Equator.
Concept: Journeys result in a dislocation from the past.
“To watch a sunset/ They would never see again.”
They are leaving behind their homes and things that are familiar to them. These are being left behind as they move forwards on their journey, they are being put in the past and they will never see them again.
“Neither masters nor slaves/ As we crossed a sea”
Loss of identity through this journey. These migrants once held some sort of position but they have lost it now that they are embarking on a journey towards a new life.
Concept: A Journey is a negative concept.
“And looked at red banners/ That time was hoisting/ In mock salute.”
Use of personification with time. Time is mocking the migrants who are unsure about their future. The journey had created this feeling of uncertainty by taking the migrants away from what they are sure of, what they know.
“Patches and shreds/ Of dialogue…Offering themselves/ As a respite from the passing waves.”
Use of a metaphor about dialogue, suggest that these are favoured more so than the on-going stages of the journey. The journey is boring and the dialogue is offering a “respite”.
“Daybreak took away/ The magic of dreams”
Use of “daybreak” as a personification suggests that it is making the migrants unhappy by taking away their dreams. Daybreak may also be seen as a reference to reality. Facing reality means having to leave their contenting dreams and, instead, face the journey that they have embarked on. Reality is a negative thing and…