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Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles

Recorded as part of the Poem-a-Day series, October 6, 2015
About this Poem 

“‘Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles’ is taken from a sign I found outside a hostel in Lijiang, China, a beautiful city in Yunnan province. It was a sign with the English phrase, the number 2418, and Chinese characters, which were indistinguishable to me. I imagined traveling for 2418 miles alone, and at the time, I think I’d traveled even further than that, going halfway around the world in utter silence. The beauty and loneliness of those experiences will stay with me my whole life, and that’s why I wrote this poem.”
Sally Wen Mao

Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles

Sally Wen Mao

In Lijiang, the sign outside your hostel
           glares: Ride alone, ride alone, ride
alone – it taunts you for the mileage
           of your solitude, must be past

thousands, for you rode this plane
           alone, this train alone, you’ll ride
this bus alone well into the summer night,
           well into the next hamlet, town,

city, the next century, as the trees twitch
           and the clouds wane and the tides
quiver and the galaxies tilt and the sun
           spins us another lonely cycle, you’ll

wonder if this compass will ever change.
           The sun doesn’t need more heat,
so why should you? The trees don’t need
            to be close, so why should you?

Copyright © 2015 by Sally Wen Mao. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 6, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2015 by Sally Wen Mao. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 6, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

previous poems

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December 06, 2010 from The Dogs Joshua Marie Wilkinson
December 05, 2010 Sojourn in the Whale Marianne Moore
December 04, 2010 The times are nightfall, look, their light grows less Gerard Manley Hopkins
December 03, 2010 Holiday Sarah Gambito
December 02, 2010 Water Edwin Torres
December 01, 2010 Dawn Dreams Rachel Hadas
November 30, 2010 Road Trip Kurt Brown
November 29, 2010 Apology Claudia Keelan
November 28, 2010 Eternity William Blake
November 27, 2010 Farewell John Clare