The diction and the literary devices generally set the mood in “Escape”; the poem begins with two rather shocking contradictions in which Cassian compares “his love” to a “prison” ( these two not being commonly associated in our society) and proclaims that “His words and looks” were like “padlocks”. To a certain extent, this immediately shows her addiction to him, at that time either conscious or subconscious, as, although she claims that “he locked me in”, she herself could not, or did not want to open these “padlocks”.
Moreover, I think that they covey a feeling of claustrophobia for the reader, thus persuading him to immediately notice how harmful this relationship was for the poet. The description of how she lost her senses, becoming “blind and mute”, makes us understand her helplessness, her entrapment as without those vital senses there was little she could do to “escape”. Everything around her is distorted, as she is unable to tell “a curtain from a river” (therefore the indoors and the outdoors) apart.
As the poem progresses, her senses become increasingly deformed and she creates a morbid, almost frightening image for the reader, by declaring that she could not see the difference between “a bracelet and a muzzle”, conveying the idea of death as a muzzle is associated with guns. Nonetheless, the poet seems to also be having a feeling of longing at the same time, as she mentions “the call of the pomegranate seed or that kind invitation of frogs into the sunset” which are reminiscent of the Romanian countryside, considering that those are her native lands.
The concluding line of the stanza highlights the overall effect this transformation has had on her as she “lost a lot of friends”; the caesura underlines that this is the direct result of everything she has mentioned throughout the stanza. The repetition running throughout the first stanza emphasizes the extent of her desperation and change, as she repeats the idea that she “could no longer tell” apart things. Nonetheless, the repetition of “dead” in “dead hair” and “dead nails” probably show how she herself felt inside, like she was growing into a lifeless corpse while she was still actually young.
This description also lies in line with the metaphor of this love being like a prison as I think we are encouraged to see her as a convict as well. The use of threatening, frightening verbs such as “invaded” or “covered” again reveal her helplessness and how lonely and scared she must have felt at one point. The form of the poem helps reveal how much effort it took for Cassian to “escape”, as after delivering her feelings during the relationship and its effects, she then “suddenly” wakes up from her haunting nightmare in the second stanza.
I think that she wants to stress this feeling of a nightmare by describing what she felt when she touched herself as always tend to check ourselves when waking up from a nightmare to see if we are whole. Unfortunately, in her case her nightmare was a reality, so she notices how her “cheeks had become hollow to the touch/my hands uneven” and the shock of seeing herself this way persuades her to have the strength to free herself from all those horrible things.
Again the pause at the beginning of the line acts like a summing up, a result of what she had noticed as well as showing her shock and hastiness to act “with the speed of disgust”. Moreover, the form takes another important role in the second verse as the short lines illustrate the speed of her actions to rid herself of the harmful effects of this relationship, from “cut(ting) off the dead nails” until “break(ing) the lock/ and “run(ning) out”.
I feel like the increasingly short lines convey a sense of urgency, as the quick pace makes it seem like she is really breaking out of a prison, thus making her metaphor highly effective. The imagery Cassian uses, whereby she compares this love to a prison, runs throughout the second stanza, the poem ending with this metaphor just as it began.
After she finally gains strength and willpower to “break the lock” she realises that “There was no guard. I think that this short sentence highlights the ambivalence of her feelings, as on one hand she must have been relieved to be able to free herself so easily, while on the other hand she may have felt some disappointment, as she was probably expecting him to care, to not simply let her go. The repetition of “No one” in the last 5 lines highlights her loneliness and desperation as nobody was there on either sides, her lover not caring enough to ask her to stay or “to raise the alarm” and her friends not “greet(ing)” her or supporting her once she got out of the relationship.
The use of “Not a soul” again brings into question the idea of death which is expressed in the first stanza; she was probably hoping that a soul, or somebody, would revive her from being so lifeless and full of “dead” things but unfortunately this soul is absent. The idea that she ends the poem with only “No one” is an extremely poignant conclusion, highlighting the peak of her lonesomeness, towards which the second stanza was building. In my opinion, this creates a heartbreaking mood, making us feel even more sympathy for the poet.