POET: HAZEL SIMMONS-McDONALD (St. Lucian-born)
Ø Orchids are currently believed to be the largest family of flowering plants. Ø The number of orchid species equals more than twice the number of bird species, and about four times the number of mammal species. It also encompasses about 6–11% of all seed plants. Ø All orchids are perennial (persistent) herbs and lack any permanent woody structure. The leaves of most orchids are perennial, that is, they live for several years. Ø The dried seed pods of some species are used as flavouring in baking, for perfume manufacture and aromatherapy (in traditional medicine). Ø Orchids are usually cultivated simply for the enjoyment of the flower. ETYMOLOGY (origin of the word "orchids"):
The name comes from the Greek, literally meaning "testicle", because of the shape of the root. The Greek myth of Orchis explains the origin of the plants. Orchis, the son of a nymph (female demigod) and a satyr (male demigod associated with music and merriment), got drunk at a festival of Dionysius (Bacchus) in the forest and attempted to rape a priestess of Dionysius. For his insult, he was torn apart by the Bacchanalians. His father prayed for him to be restored, but the gods instead changed him into a flower (orchid). Thereby exposing his "testicles" (nakedness and shame) forever. ANALYSIS OF POEM:
I leave this house
Box pieces of the five-week life I’ve gathered.
This connotes a broken/divided/fragmented/disjointed/separated existence, perhaps a relationship. The house is symbolic of the persona’s desire/quest for security, safety and belonging. The persona (1st person narrator) leaves with his belongings packed away in boxes (accumulated over a five-week period). I’ll send them on
to fill spaces in my future life.
His possessions are transported elsewhere; continually building upon the persona’s possible past failed relationships and shifting lifestyle.
5 One thing is left
a spray of orchids someone gave
from a bouquet one who
makes a ritual of flower-giving sent.
A stem of orchids is called a spray but multiple sprays are called a bunch. The persona received a gift of orchids, taken from a variety of other flowers, perhaps symbolic of the persona’s own perennially (continually) shifting existence. He is always moving from one house/place/location to the next without cessation; always on the move (moving); changing addresses; not confined to one place/space. Hence, the persona’s lack of permanence and stability. The orchids have no fragrance
10 but purple petals draw you
to look at the purple heart.
Perhaps the orchids have lost their fragrance—no longer appealing to the sense of smell but sight, as the persona is drawn to their regal (magnificent) beauty—forced to look within his own heart/soul/consciousness and make introspection (self-analysis) of his own seemingly weathered lifestyle—lacking enrichment and inner beauty. By looking into the "purple heart" of the orchids as into a mirror (also symbolic of the Purple Heart/Badge of Military Merit) he is reminded of his need to find inner strength and courage to face his daily challenges. I watered them once
when the blossoms were full blown
like polished poems.
I was sure they’d wilt
and I would toss them out with the five-week litter.
The beauty of the orchids can be likened to the beauty of well written poetry. The persona anticipates the fading beauty of the orchids—their message/meaningfulness/value—the allegory here may be true of poetry as well, however, they outlived his expectations. Even a poem lacking in sound or minimal craftsmanship has the potential to develop/blossom into a work of aesthetic beauty. This is reinforced by the persona’s use of the simile in lines 13&14: "when the blossoms were full blown/like polished poems".
They were stubborn.
I starved them
They would not die.
The persona’s failed and perhaps dishonest/distrustful attempt...