“Let Me Try Again” by Javier Zamora, from Unaccompanied (2017)


Javier Zamora’s “Let Me Try Again,” is concerned not only with the politics involved in the process of migrating but also with the politics of relaying a narrative about migrating. The poem begins with the speaker’s direct address to the audience: “I could bore you with the sunset, the way water tasted / after so many days without it,/ the trees, the breed of dogs…” (61). This introduction relays the speaker’s belief that the sensory details he lists will risk boring the readeryet, the speaker’s consciousness of this ‘risk’ does not impede the speaker from listing them. What this reveals is that though the speaker is aware of his audience and of his storytelling, he is not necessarily invested in ‘convincing’ or swaying an audience; rather, the poem’s progression demonstrates the speaker’s own relationship to the very story he tellsboth in what he tells and how he tells it. The poem’s structure is divided by addressing these two distinct aspects. While the formal structure reflects the speaker’s multiple attempts to tell the story, the poem’s narrative content is more invested in pointing to the multiple attempts migrants make to cross the U.S./Mexico border.

In connection with the poem’s title, the speaker’s awareness of audience in the first line indicates that this poem is not the speaker’s first attempt to tell this story i.e. this is a poem that is just as much about the speaker’s attempt to “try again” to tell the story, as it is about the speaker’s attempts to migrate. The poem’s final stanza illuminates further significance of the poem’s title, as the speaker reflects on the officer’s reasoning for advising the group: “He knew we would try again / and again, / like everyone does,” (62). The narrative within the poem leads us through the speaker’s journey and moves us from the specificity of his experience and consciousness of relaying it, all the way through to the collective experience he shared with other migrants. In the poem’s title, it is the “me” who will “try again” and the actual action here is left open to interpretation, while in the poem’s final stanza, it is the “we” who will “try again” and the action here unambiguously refers to crossing the border.

The poem’s first three stanzas reflect the speaker’s attempts to recall detail or otherwise to decide upon how he will relay this story. These three stanzas are marked by the speaker’s hesitation and confusion, as indicated by language like “I can’t say,” “I couldn’t remember / there were only five,/ or seven people,” and “The rest…I don’t know.” The speaker’s flustered tone is reflected not only through this language but also formally through frequent enjambment and scattered spacing on the page. The stanzas are structured in such a way as to reflect the speaker’s own uncertainty about how he relays the story of what occurred during this moment in his migration journey. For example, “The rest…/ I don’t know. / They weren’t there,” progressively move in a downward diagonal pattern away from the page; the distance created physically on the page reflects the speaker’s distance from the thirty-six people from which he was separated, and perhaps also his distance from the full knowledge of what happened to them. It is not until the poem’s fourth stanza that the poem settles into a more direct, grounded storytelling pattern and adopts a more stable form. Although frequent enjambment and dispersed lines continue through the end of the poem, the stanzas are consistently two to three lines, which eases the narrative flow. As the poem stabilizes formally, the speaker’s tone shifts to encompass a wider political awareness as he analyzes the officer’s identity and how he defies the expectations of his occupational role in order to warn the migrants. The poem slows to enable further emphasis on instances of enjambment, as in: “He must’ve remembered his family / over the border,” which functions to give a double meaning to ‘over the border’ as it indicates both the family’s physical location as well as the officer’s prioritization of his family over his prioritization of his duty to the Border Patrol.

Works Cited:
Zamora, Javier. Unaccompanied. Port Townsend: Copper Canyon Press, 2017. Print.

One thought on ““Let Me Try Again” by Javier Zamora, from Unaccompanied (2017)”

  1. Although I’ve never read this poem myself, you did a great job in explaining not only the context of the poem by detailing both the author of the poem, his background and his connection to the story being told, but also by taking me through the poem and its many themes that reveal its underlying messages. I appreciated the way you pointed out how the poem originally starts with the pronoun “me” in its title, and by the end, has transitioned to a “we”, signaling the collective group of migrants who are “trying again” together, as opposed to the first attempts by the speaker of the poem to migrate singularly. A question I’m left with, based on the things you have already talked about, is if the switch from this one person perspective is sudden, or if it changes more so as the message of the poem changes from one about migration to one about the politics behind migration?

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