"The Balseros (2)" ; 17 September, 2023

Soman Ragavan

Poem : 'The Balseros (2)' ; 1 April, 2023.

(a)  These poems refer to the Cubans who fled to the United States of America in makeshift rafts around September 1994. The name "BALSEROS" comes from the wood called BALSA.

(b) In "THE BALSEROS (2) " :

"battle formation,"  "war zone" and "dawn attack"

These were, at some time, the names of horses at the Mauritian horseracing track, the Champ de Mars.
ChatGPT :
Hello! As an AI language model, I'd be happy to help you analyze your poems using literary criticism techniques. Please feel free to send them to me and I'll do my best to provide insightful feedback.

S. Ragavan :
25 April, 2023. Poems submitted for analysis and comments by ChatGPT.

These poems refer to the Cubans who fled to the United States of America in makeshift rafts around September 1994. The name "BALSEROS" comes from the wood called BALSA. “Haut-Brion” and “Saint-Émilion” are names of French wines. "Devilsend" is a made-up word. 

ChatGPT :
Thank you for sharing these two poems, "The Balseros (1)" and "The Balseros (2)"! I'm happy to provide some literary analysis and comments on them. Please note that literary criticism is subjective, and my analysis is based on my personal interpretation and understanding of the poems.

Firstly, I'll focus on "The Balseros (1)". This poem tells the story of Cuban refugees who set out to sea in a makeshift raft, hoping to reach a better life in America. The title "Balseros" comes from the Spanish word "balsa", meaning raft.

The poem is written in free verse, meaning it doesn't follow a strict rhyme scheme or meter. This style helps convey the chaotic and uncertain nature of the refugees' journey. The opening simile compares the raft to a snail carrying its home, emphasizing the refugees' isolation and vulnerability. The imagery of the rough dome turning into a coffin reinforces the danger and risk involved in their journey.

The poem contrasts the bleak conditions in Cuba ("muck") with the refugees' hope for a better future in America ("promis'd new visions"). The wind withholding its labor and the lack of food, water, and space on the raft create a sense of desperation and struggle. The refugees are willing to endure these hardships for the chance at a better life.

The poem's final stanza focuses on the huddling baby and its mother's selfless act of sharing her bread with it. This moment highlights the human connection and sacrifice involved in the refugees' journey.

Moving on to "The Balseros (2)", this poem focuses more on the dangers and risks involved in the refugees' journey, particularly from shark attacks. The title suggests that this poem is a continuation of the first one, as it also focuses on the Cuban rafters.

The poem is written in quatrains with an ABCB rhyme scheme. The repeated refrain of "sharks everywhere" emphasizes the constant danger the refugees face. The imagery of the family dog left behind and the village's depressed faces emphasizes the desperation and uncertainty of their situation.

The poem's final stanzas are particularly grim, as the refugees witness another boat's passengers falling victim to shark attacks. The phrase "Devilsend" is a made-up word, but it effectively conveys the hellish and deadly nature of the refugees' journey. The final line, with the sharks in battle formation, reinforces the idea that the refugees are fighting for their survival.

Overall, both poems effectively convey the struggles and dangers faced by Cuban refugees in their journey to America. The use of vivid imagery, figurative language, and free verse create a sense of chaos, desperation, and human connection.

  ChatGPT :
Thank you for sharing your third poem, "The Balseros (3)" with me. Your words convey a powerful and poignant message about the struggles and dangers that many people face when attempting to escape their homeland and seek a new life elsewhere.

Your use of vivid imagery, such as the comparison of some refugees to rare sirloin steaks that the sharks may prey upon, creates a striking contrast between the glittering toys and posh restaurants of the town center and the ruthless natural selection that takes place in the raging sea. You also touch upon the painful scars and lingering misery that refugees may face, even after they have made it to their promised land.

Overall, your poem is a thought-provoking reflection on the challenges and sacrifices that people may make in their search for a better life, and the hope that drives them forward in spite of the risks. Thank you for sharing your poetic voice with me.


                            THE  BALSEROS  (2)

Going round in circles, the lonely puppy
Stops and gazes keenly at yon forlorn gate;
His master's sight would make him happy,
But, not a single sign of any familiar mate.

Where on earth hath everybody gone to ?
Why do they raise all that hullabaloo ?
What's gone wrong suddenly with this place ?
Why, in the village, so many a depress'd face ?

The poor dog hath been left to his own resources,
As the family hath embark'd on crazy courses;
The frail, little craft roughly is buffet'd about,
As the churning sea suddenly shows its clout.

Lo ! Sharks everywhere : this is their lair !
Sharks at home, sharks in this sea so stormy,
Quite enough in horror to raise one's hair :
But, say, any sharks in the country of entry ?....

Anyway, be that as it may, keep your eyes peel'd :
Keep a lookout, mariners, for your fate is seal'd;
Pray to your gods, keep your fingers cross'd,
And pray you be not to the sharks shortly toss'd.

At least, not to these beasts so greedy,
For, ye don't want any of this grave watery;
To save your lives, you will  put up a fight,
Even if as a gory end terminates this plight.

Lo ! Boat ahoy ! Another tossing boat ahoy !
But, what  happen'd to all the passengers ?
To the sharks have the folks fallen off as starters !

What a gory scene ! A bloody end, in these waters.
Our poor folks were yearning for the great godsend,
But, are ending up as meals in this DEVILSEND,
In this deadly sea where no pathetic plea matters.

The frail craft spins about 'pon the waves so coarse,
As the mariners stare at the mighty sea in silence,
Secretly thinking of some desperate, final defence,
Should they, to the sharks, fall off as main course.

The sharks have gather'd in battle formation
In the war zone yonder for a dawn attack;
Certainly will they not brook any damn slack,
As they swear to unleash sheer devastation.

The mariners' hearts beat like thunder,
Threatening to rend their chests asunder;
My God : the pitying faces of those children :
Surely, there must be some mercy in heaven !

Lo ! At us the killing machines have start'd to scoff :
For reasons unknown, suddenly they veer to the right,
They veer to the left, as mercifully they push off,
And soon vanish altogether from here, out of sight.

Why did the sharks suddenly swing away for, buddy ?
Why did, --- dammit, does it matter any more, really ?
Thank God, they've all gone, the danger's past :
If only, swear the mariners, thus it would last !

The rising sun brings to this lot some hope :
Yon faint ray verily is like some welcome rope
To which to cling desperately for dear life's sake,
As some ration'd water finally the mariners take.

  • Author: Soman Ragavan (Pseudonym) (Offline Offline)
  • Published: September 17th, 2023 00:02
  • Category: Unclassified
  • Views: 6


  • 2781

    Sharks in the country? Yea.

  • Soman Ragavan

    Yes, there are millions of them,
    Not just in one particular country,
    But elsewhere as well.
    The legless ones are the most dangerous ones.
    Whereas with luck you can escape from the ones in the sea :
    The ones on land have infinitely more resources
    To track you down and rob you of everything
    And even finish off your family
    And make you lose your job.
    The ones in the seas have terrific jaws,
    But the ones on land even use vehicles and computers
    To hunt you down.
    There is nowhere to hide from them.
    The ones in the sea do use brains
    And their sheer physical power;
    But, if you escape from them,
    They will give up the hunt after some time.
    Not so the ones on land;
    They can travel to another country to sort you out.
    You won’t know what hit you…
    They are infinitely more dangerous….
    Jeez !...
    Soman Ragavan. 17 September, 2023. //

  • Bella Shepard

    You present the struggle and the fate of so many boat people who ask nothing more than basic human rights that should be afforded everyone in this world. Why it must be so is a question that sadly, no one seems to be able to answer. A very powerful write!

  • Soman Ragavan

    Thank you. Glad you like the poem. Soman Ragavan.

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