Journey Into The Interior

In the long journey out of the self,
There are many detours, washed-out interrupted raw places
Where the shale slides dangerously
And the back wheels hang almost over the edge
At the sudden veering, the moment of turning.
Better to hug close, wary of rubble and falling stones.
The arroyo cracking the road, the wind-bitten buttes, the canyons,
Creeks swollen in midsummer from the flash-flood roaring into the narrow valley.
Reeds beaten flat by wind and rain,
Grey from the long winter, burnt at the base in late summer.
-- Or the path narrowing,
Winding upward toward the stream with its sharp stones,
The upland of alder and birchtrees,
Through the swamp alive with quicksand,
The way blocked at last by a fallen fir-tree,
The thickets darkening,
The ravines ugly.

by Theodore Roethke

Comments (6)

Uh, where's the rest of this poem? It's five times this length. A great, great poem, here bastardized.
The long journey! Thanks for sharing this poem with us.
And the back wheels hang almost over the edge At the sudden veering, the moment of turning........................................... Terrible imagery but metaphor is unique.
There are a lot of well-worked-out images in this poem, touching on all the senses. It is visual and muscular and tactile and also very emotional for adroit choices and positioning. It is a visceral poem that goes to the gut, the gut we often refer to as basis to our instincts. And still I'm left feeling, in my head, my thoughts, that I don't fully comprehend the journey that's started in the first line. Out of the self. The movement out of the self is one the implies rejection and repudiation, an attempt to escape what is ultimately inescapable. We can change and evolve, seek therapy or anesthetize ourselves with intoxicants, but we remain ourselves, no one else. But Roethke already foresaw that contradiction in the title. He front-loaded the abstract, intellectual argument of the poem in the title and first line, then took us on a wild ride through the real world where we forget that heady stuff and deal with the real journey. It's a really risky stratagem of balance that, for me at least, gives the poem its ultimate impact. The need at the end to circle around and realize that journey, where ever it takes you, in or out, ultimately always leads back to the self.
In the long journey.... Thanks for posting...
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