Lorna Dee Cervantes: Beneath the Shadow of the Freeway
The form of the poem is not easy to determine. It consists of six stanzas of uneven length, which are, except for the first and fifth, again divided into sub-stanzas. The meter is irregular as well as the length of the verses and there is also no rhyme scheme. Cervantes plays very freely with the structure of poems. She does not use an established type of poem and ignores rhyme and meter, but she presents her words graphically in the form of stanzas, in separate but related sections. The six main parts are numbered. It can be assumed that the arrangement of the verses was done consciously and that it aims at a certain reception on the side of the reader. Each time a stanza or sub-stanza starts, a kind of pause emerges. This also allows the poem to have spatial and temporal leaps without transitions, but it also increases the difficulties concerning the understanding of the text. In addition to that, many things are only vaguely hinted or ambiguously presented. The inherent continuity of the poem is achieved by its themes and by its imagery.
The first section deals with "the shadow of the freeway", the image that is also in the title of the poem. It becomes obvious that the speaker lives next to a freeway; she can watch it right across the street from her porch. Every day she notices that the shadow of the freeway lengthens. This is interesting, because freeways usually do not cast shadows, they are flat. This seems to suggest that the freeway is actually a metaphor, so the speaker lives next to either a real or a metaphorical freeway.
The family is introduced in the second part. It is an all-female family, consisting of three generations: grandmother, mother, and daughter. Grandmother is a "Queen", mother is "Swift Knight, Fearless Warrior", who wants to be a "Princess" instead. The speaker herself is conflicted by her role in the family. Because she cannot decide, she becomes a "Scribe": a...
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