Strangers at First Sight by Nick Joaquin (Poem) - Analysis and Meaning

Strangers at First Sight is a poem by Nick Joaquin. On initial reading, the poem seems to be simple enough to understand. No fancy wordplay. No overbearing metaphors. But upon closer inspection, it's actually more vague than simple. It's written in clear and easy language but trying to decipher its meaning requires a bit of mental exercise. The poem is about falling in and out of love. It's about nurturing a relationship, seeing it dissipate, and hoping that you don't have to go through the same process again.

The title of the poem could be a playful reference to the saying "love at first sight". Come to think of it. Before lovers became lovers, they have to meet for the first time. During this first meeting, they were strangers to each other.

The poem also has a tinge of pessimism in it. The speaker's experiences with feelings and love has rendered him pessimistic. Enough to cause him to ignore everything and shut off his senses.

How could you possibly start from nothing?
And then end up as everything?

- The speaker is amazed at the power of love and feelings. Two people start out as strangers to each other. They don't know each other. They know nothing of each other. They are basically nothing of value to each other before they met. But after meeting and falling in love, they become everything to each other.

I never thought I’d feel this way again…
More like I pushed myself to never fall victim again
To this arresting feeling

- Here the speaker takes the opposite stance. In the first lines of the poem, he speaks highly of the power and beauty of love and feelings. In these next lines, he pushes back against such feelings. The only explanation to this pushback is that he had a bad experience with falling in love. He even used the word "victim". He was a victim of love, a victim of falling in love at first sight. And he doesn't plan on getting victimized again.

How ironic is it, That what I wanted to lose the most,
Is what most people long for their whole life

- Most people dream of falling in love at first sight. Of finding the one. But the speaker wants the opposite. He doesn't want fall in love again with a stranger only to see it disappear again.

I don’t know what to do,
Guess I’ll just ignore everything again,
Time to shut my senses to all the assaults that the world has to offer…
After all, I’ve suppressed everything so far
What’s one more to add?

- Here the speaker meets a problem. Going against your feelings is a lost cause. If you meet someone and you like her, there's not much that you can do to stop yourself from loving her. This is why the speaker laments not knowing what to do. He thinks of ignoring everything and shutting his senses. He comforts himself by reminding himself that he has suppressed everything so far.

This is definitely a poem that can be open to varying interpretations especially the last five lines. But the overall theme of the poem is on the power of feelings and the consequences of these feelings.