Poem with an explanation: Out in the ocean

Below is a poem with an explanation.  Before reading it, please check out M. Sakran’s self-published collection of poems with explanations, Understanding: poems with explanations.  After you read the poem and explanation below, if you like the idea of a poet explaining their poem so that you know exactly what it means (such that you could learn more about poetry by reading what one means – which is the general idea of the eBook), then consider purchasing a copy of M. Sakran’s eBook.  The eBook has twenty poems that have in depth explanations.  The idea, is that by reading what some poems really mean, the reader can hopefully better understand poetry and improve their reading and writing of it.  Thank you very much, enjoy the poem and explanation, and hopefully you’ll check out the book.


Out in the ocean,
holding on,
to a piece of the wreckage.

There’s floating,
trying to strain plankton from the water,
hoping it will rain,
and the sun won’t be too hot.

In the delirium,
there’s a sight,
far away,
a mountain,
and there,
in the valley,
in the cool air,
and greenness,

In the moments,
as eyes look out,
there are plans,
plans about the hut,
and its expansion,
plans about fishing,
and setting up traps,
plants and fruits,
and planting bushes,
plans of tools,
plans of ropes,

But there,
out in the ocean,
the leg kicks are in vain,
the arm reaching out grabs nothing,
in the back,
things float by,
but they aren’t seen.

The mind flows,
to thoughts of drift wood,
to finding a plastic sheet,
to finding a floating drum.

It all mixes,
but then again,
there’s the beach,
and the hut,
and there again,
there’s the mountain,
and the valley.

Out in the ocean,
holding on,
to a piece of the wreckage.


This poem is about the state of a person’s life.  It exams three ideas: where they are, where they want to be in the near future and what their dream is.  As an analogy, the reader might think of a person in a state of unemployment (where they are), the next job they hope to get (where they want to be in the near future) and the business they hope to own (what their dream is).  The idea though, could be applied to many other situations.  The poem contrasts the person’s dreams with their actions and reality.

In the first stanza, the person is in a state of despair.  Life is not going well.  They are out in the ocean, holding on to a piece of the wreckage.  They aren’t drowning, but they are just holding on.  The wreckage is part of what was keeping the person afloat before.  It was whatever helped them not be in the situation they are in.  Using the job analogy, it might be some sort of side work that relates to what they used to do, that the person is getting so that they can just barely make it, at least for a while.

In the second stanza, the person is doing little things to get by (strain plankton from the water) and hoping something good will happen (it will rain) and that something bad won’t happen (the sun won’t be too hot).

In their condition, they dream of what they wish for.  It is something that gives them a sense of peace and comfort.  It is as different from where they are as things can be.  In the poem, the peaceful place is in the mountains, which is as far a departure from the sea as a person can be, in a sense.  Using the job analogy, this is the person’s dream of owning their own business.

In the following stanza, the person dreams two steps ahead.  Using the job analogy, it would be like a person dreaming about what the promotion they would get after they get an entry level job, would be like.  They dream of the improvements it will bring in their life.  They skip over the entry level job in their thoughts.

In the next stanza, the person has a moment of reality.  They try to improve their situation but nothing works.  They also miss opportunities.

When these moments of reality hit, the person stops thinking of the far away goal, and even the near term goal, and starts to think about their present.  They think of small things, that in any other situation, wouldn’t be seen as achievements, but in their current situation do.

The reality is unpleasant for the person though.  Thinking of inches, when there are dreams of miles is disheartening to them.  They again start to dream about the near term goal and the future wish.

In the end, the person is still in their reality.

This poem contrasts a person’s reality with their aspirations.  The person in the poem is a dreamer, but they don’t seem to be able to move forward to their dreams.  They get ahead of themselves.  They dream of improving life on the beach and living in the mountains, while they are floating on a piece of a shipwreck in the ocean.  They are focused on tomorrow, but not paying enough attention to today.

Although the poem was described using the idea of a person’s employment condition, it could be extended to many other ideas.  For example, a person who isn’t in shape might be dreaming about running a 5K and a marathon.  It could also be applied a person who has trouble getting a date, thinking about what it would be like to date someone and be married.  It also might be used to talk about a person with an addiction, thinking about what it would be like to be six months sober and two years sober.  In all the ideas, the person is getting ahead of themselves.  They aren’t able to improve their current situation, but they dream of the situation being changed.

In terms of form, the poem is divided into eight stanzas. The number of lines per stanza varies between three and twelve.  With exception of the second four line stanza, the number of lines per stanza increases to a point and then decreases to a point.  Had that idea been more important, the second four line stanza could have been increased to seven lines long, and the seven line stanza could have been decreased to six lines long, to maintain the idea.

In the poem, the first and last stanzas are the same.  The idea was to provide circularity.  Despite all the thought and dreaming, the condition of the person is the same at the end of the poem as at the start.

In the third stanza, the phrase “in the” is repeated three times.  In the first use, it is negative, in the second two uses, it is meant to take the reader into the person’s dream.

The fourth stanza starts with “in the”.  In the third stanza, the situation was “In the delirium”.  In the fourth stanza, it is “In the moments”.  The two “in the” phrases from the third stanza, transitioned the person’s state of mind so that they are fully dreaming.

In the fifth stanza, the word “plans” is repeated six times.  The idea was show how much the person in the poem was dreaming.  They had detailed ideas about what they wanted.  They were planning.  This is contrasted with doing.

In the second to last stanza, “to finding a” is repeated twice.  The idea was to emphasize the person grasping for scraps in their situation.  The state of the person is bad to a point, that things that are seen as debris, are useful to them.


If you liked this poem with an explanation and like the idea of explained poems as way to hopefully better understand poetry, then please consider purchasing a copy of Understanding: poems with explanations.