An image is a representation of something concrete that the mind has in some way experienced. The image creates a mental picture and may also evoke a sensory response in the reader. In ‘‘Freeway 280,’’ for example, Cervantes mentions roses, which might conjure a visual image of a flower as well as the flower’s scent. She also mentions the wind, which cannot literally be seen. When a poet mentions an apricot or a walnut, as Cervantes does in this poem, a reader might not only see the fruit but also might imagine what the fruit tastes like.
Some of the most prominent visual images in this poem are small houses, a cannery nearby, flowers, fruit trees, culinary plants, and of course, the highway. Cervantes uses contrasting images and colors— the red of the geraniums and the green of the grasses, plants, and trees against the gray of the cannery and the wire fence—to suggest the incongruous existence of living things with manmade, industrial constructions.
Free verse is a form of poetry that does not use a strict pattern of meter (rhythm) or rhyme. For the past fifty or so years in American poetry, free verse has become the predominant poetic form. In free verse, the poet establishes his or her own rhythm by ending the lines of each verse according to the emphasis he or she wants to create. The first stanza of Cervantes’s poem, for instance, begins with images that are pleasant to imagine, for the most part. There are small houses that are decorated with roses that hug the outside walls. There are also geraniums that are almost six feet tall. These images make up the first three lines of the poem. Then, at the beginning of the fourth line, the poet changes direction. In three small words, she makes those pleasant opening images disappear. Everything she has previously mentioned is taken away. They no longer exist, she states. The poet has arranged the words in this stanza so that the three words she uses to tell readers that the houses and flowers no longer exist come as a shock, just as the image of the vacant lots where once she used to live might have shocked her the first time she saw them.
Another benefit of using a free verse form is that the poem can be read in a conversational tone. There are no rhymes or measured beats during a normal conversation. This is true also for the free verse form.
Poetry for Students, Presenting Analysis, Context, and Criticism on Commonly Studied Poetry, Volume 30, Lorna Dee Cervantes, Gale Cengage Learning, 2009