Stanza 1 The poem begins with a description of a child crying. However, his cries seem harsh and fierce “Your laughter metamorphosed into howl”. This also suggests that the child is normally a happy one and something happened to have changed his happiness. The last line in the stanza informs us that the reason why the child is crying is because he has been beaten “the quick slap struck”. The little boy is also staring at the parent hoping that he might be feeling guilty for hitting him. This might mean that the child is trying to play on the parent’s emotion “you stand there angling for a moment’s hint”.
Stanza 2 It is important to note that the stanza is giving the point of view of the parent. The parent is imagining that the child is demonizing him for hitting him “The ogre towers above you, that grim giant,// empty of feeling a colossal cruel”. From this, we can understand that the parent thinks that the child believes that he is cruel and evil for hitting him and therefore is thinking of ways to overcome or get away from the parent.
Stanza 3 Poet makes it clear that the father loves his son. However, he is slapping him for is own good. He also suggests that the father is hurt by the son’s tears and would do anything to make him stop crying. “This fierce man longs to lift you//……” Yet, the lesson must be taught.
Stanza 4 Maybe this stanza suggests that no matter that there are often important behaviour or lessons children must learnt by children.
Parent – Child Relationship
The father seems to be firm and strict with his son. Although he loves him he does not allow him to have his own way.
The little boy experiences pain and resentment for his parent. Unlike Ana, his childhood is not one that is carefree without any consequences for undesired behaviour.
The father tries to be a good parent. In his eyes there are some lessons that his son must learn. Therefore, he carries out physical punishment so that he can learn these lessons.
In this poem, the Ol’ Higue / soucouyant
tells of her frustration with her lifestyle. She does not like the fact that
she sometimes has to parade around, in the form of a fireball, without her skin
at night. She explains that she has to do this in order to scare people, as
well as to acquire baby blood. She explains that she would rather acquire this
blood via cooked food, like every-one else. Her worst complaint is the pain of
salt, as well as having to count rice grains. She exhibits some regret for her
lifestyle but implies that she cannot resist a baby’s smell, as well as it’s
pure blood. The ‘newness’ of the baby tempts the Ol’ Higue, and she cannot
resist because she is an old woman who fears death, which can only be avoided
by consuming the baby’s blood. She affirms her usefulness in the scheme of
things, however, by claiming that she provides mothers with a name for their
fears (this being the death of a child), as well as some-one to blame when the
evil that they wish for their child, in moments of tired frustration, is
realized. She implies that she will never die, so long as women keep having babies.
Cane-fire has a very distinct quality. It
burns very quickly and its presence is felt through it’s pungent smell.
Therefore, when the Ol’ Higue compares herself to cane fire in her fireball
state, it implies that she uses a lot of energy quickly, and is very
2. RHETORICAL QUESTION
•Stanza 1,line 4: This rhetorical question
highlights the scant regard that the Higue has for the average person. She is
thoroughly annoyed that she has to literally waste her energy on them.
•Stanza 1, line 5: This highlights the fact
that, again, she is annoyed that she has to expend so much energy to obtain a
few drops of baby blood.
•Stanza 1, lines 6-8: The Ol’ Higue is
emphasizing the fact that regular people ingest blood too, just in a more
palatable manner. She would not mind if she could ingest it in the same manner
•Stanza 3, lines 22-23: At this point the
Ol’ Higue is making excuses for her presence, claiming that she serves an
actual purpose in the scheme of life. If a child dies of unknown causes, she
can be scapegoated for it.
•Stanza 3, lines 24-25: ‘The murder inside
your head’ refers to the moments, when out of pure frustration and tiredness, a
mother might wish ill on her child. The Ol’ Higue is implying that, again, she
can be used as a scapegoat if something unfortunate happens to the child. The
mother is relieved of bearing the burden of guilt.
The repetition of the word ‘soft’
emphasizes the fact that the call of the child’s blood has captured and
beguiled the Ol’ Higue’. She implies that she cannot resist that call.
This device emphasizes the Ol’ Higue’s
dependence, even addiction, to the sweet blood of the baby.
IMPORTANT WORDS/ PHRASES
This is a distinctly Caribbean phrase that
highlights frustration or scorn. Therefore, it highlights the Ol’ Higue’s
frustration with her lack of self control.
This term refers to some one ‘playing
around’, having fun. The Ol’ Higue is being sarcastic at this point. She is
expressing displeasure at having to fly around to seek prey.
7. ‘pure blood running in new veins’
Babies are often associated with purity,
this is what is emphasized here. The Ol’ Higue simply cannot resist the lure of
new and pure blood.
8. ‘holding her final note for years and
years, afraid of the dying hum …’
This tells us that the Ol’Higue has been
living this desperate existence for a long time. It also implies that she will
keep hanging on, despite her frustration. The final line confirms this point:
‘As long as it have women giving birth a poor Ol’ Higue like me can never dead’
The mood of the poem is reflective.
The tone of the poem is slightly bitter and
resigned. She accepts that the cycle of her life cannot change.
The persona in this poem is telling the story of a mother who loved her son. The mother became aware of the child’s presence when she experienced morning sickness. She placed all her hopes in the child and raised him as a single parent because his father was indifferent to the child’s existence. The mother had set no barriers on what the child could become, but is told that he has an employer who values him so much that he is given his own submarine gun. The son tells his mother that his employer is like a father to him, but the mother wonders at the father figure who purposefully endangers his child. She prepares for her son’s death by going downtown to buy funeral apparel. The mother feels powerless, so she prays for her child and says protective psalms for him. On the other hand, she reads psalms of retribution for the employer and weeps for her son. Her situation does not look good and is likened to a partner system in which she draws both the first and the last hand.
Lines 1-2: The persona emphasizes that the mother placed all her hopes in her son. When you are poor, generally, you have no prospects, you only dream and hope. Therefore, the persona uses this metaphor to emphasize the mother’s dependence on her son’s success.
Line 17: The employer is being compared to a father figure. This implies that this person fills a gap in the son’s life.
The persona appears to praise the child’s father by referring to him as ‘fair-minded’. She is, however, chastising him for not only ignoring his son, but all of his other children.
The son innocently tells his mother that his employer values him so much that he gave him a whole submachine gun for himself. The irony in this situation is that if you really care about someone, you do NOT give them a gun due to the negative results that are bound to occur.
Lines 28-29: This line alludes to a particular verse in the Christian Bible, Luke 11 vs 11. The verse questions what the actions of a good father should be.
Lines 38-39: Psalms is a particular chapter in the Christian Bible. In this chapter there are verses for protection, the mother uses those for her son, as well as verses for retribution and rebuking. It is implied that the mother chooses those for the employer.
Lines 43-45: In the Christian Bible, Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus. Therefore, it does not bode well for the mother if she is in a ‘partnership’ with this person’s mother because she might also be betrayed. The banker in the ‘partnership’ also happens to be the thief on the left hand side of the cross’ mother. This also does not bode well for the mother if the apple doesnot fall far from the tree.
Line 49: Absalom is the son of David, in the Christian Bible. Absalom betrayed his father, which implies that the mother feels betrayed by her son because she has placed all her hopes in him.
IMPORTANT WORDS/ PHRASES
‘a need to cry for little reasons and a metallic tide rising in her mouth each morning.’
These two symptoms are early signs of pregnancy. The metallic tide refers to vomiting. These signs usually occur in the first trimester of pregnancy.
This means that the mother carried her son for the full nine months that a pregnancy should last.
‘tight up under her heart’
This hints at the love that the mother harbours for her child. He was not simply ‘close to her heart’, but ‘tight up’ under it. It implies that the son holds a special place in her heart.
‘set no ceiling’
A ceiling is something that blocks you in, you cannot get past it. The mother set no limits on her son, he could be anything he wanted to be.
‘his bloody salary’
This implies that the mother believes that the result of the son’s ‘job’ will be death.
‘the level of earth’
The mother has no power to change her son’s situation. Earth is used to emphasize her powerlessness on this level, the realm of ‘reality’.
This refers to the fact that the mother constantly prayed for her child.
‘eye water covers you’
This implies that the mother cried constantly for the plight of her son. The fact that it ‘covers him’ speaks to the high quantity of tears that were shed.
This is an informal saving scheme set up with a specific number of individuals for the duration of a specific time span. Each person agrees to pay a designated figure on a monthly basis. The ‘draws’ are decided, meaning who gets the money first, second, third etc, on a monthly basis.The banker then collects the money and gives the monthly pool to the person who is to receive their ‘draw’. Therefore, a ‘partnership’ is dependent upon the honesty of the banker, who could abscond with the money, as well as the honesty of the members of the savings scheme, who could decide NOT to pay after they have received their draw.
The banker, or financial controller, of this partnership is the mother of a thief. This does not bode well for the mother if the thief on the cross learnt it from his mother.
‘her draw though is first and last for she still throwing two hands as mother and father’.
This statement implies that though the mother has the advantage of first draw as mother, she loses that advantage because she also has the role of father. Mothers cannot father sons. The fact that the son has found a father figure proves this to be true. Therefore, she has the last draw, which carries with it the disadvantage of not receiving a full ‘draw’. The longer one waits for a draw is the more likely that dishonesty will come into play on the part of the participants.
The mood of the poem is reflective. The persona is thinking about a mother’s response to her son’s life choices.
The tone of the poem is pragmatic and pessimistic. The persona is telling the tale as it is, with no positive energy.
Death, love/love and family relationship, survival, dreams and aspirations, childhood experiences, religion
The persona is moving from a house that she has occupied for five weeks. She has sent her belongings to her future home, but one item remains in her old space, an orchid. The persona clarifies that she was given the orchid as a gift, but implies that it holds no value because the gifting of orchids is habitual for the person who gave her. She describes the flower as odourless, but attractive. She watered the orchid once, expecting it to die, but it survived. It not only survived, but bloomed. The persona contemplates plucking the bloom and pressing it between the pages of a book. The purpose of this is to allow her to appreciate the flower.
Structure of the Poem The poet’s use of blank verse (lacks rhyming pattern) effectively captures the persona’s struggle between hope and despair as he narrates (tells his life-story) with a tone that similarly and occasionally shifts between feelings of optimism and pessimism, adding to a mood that varies between contemplative serenity and foreboding uncertainty.
Illustrated by the poet’ use of emotive language to describe the aesthetically pleasing orchids–
“purple petals/blossoms … full blown/like polished poems/ This morning the bud … unfurled” juxtaposed against the persona’s destructive intentions–“I watered them once/ I would toss them out/I starved them/I’ll pluck the full-blown blooms/press them”.
Indicative of the persona’s seeming lack of appreciation for the orchids as natural and philosophical emblems of beauty, wisdom and strength.
The orchid is a flower of magnificence that brings a universal message of love, beauty, wisdom, thoughtfulness, luxury, strength, refinement, affection, new growth and development.
“This elegant flower should make you feel pampered. Purple is the colour of royalty. Orchids are generally regarded as symbolic of rare and delicate beauty…. Their graceful appearance draws immediate attention, and their reputation as an exotic and unusual flower evokes a sense of refinement and innocence”.
Literary Devices SIMILE- lines 13-14
The orchid’s full blown blossoms are being compared to a polished poem. The word polished in this comparison implies perfection, shiny and pleasant to read.
PUN- line 11
The purple heart literally refers to the splash of color in the center of the orchid’s bloom, but it could also refer to the bravery of the flower. This is so because a purple heart, in the army, is a medal that a soldier receives for bravery.
Metaphor- lines 1-2
The persona compares her experience over a five week period with boxes that she uses to pack her belongings in.
The mood of the poem is pensive, or thoughtful. The persona is thinking about the lack of value that she places in the orchid.
Tone of the Poem
The tone of the poem is one of almost bored musing.