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Speaking and Listening Keeping Orchids

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Keeping Orchids [Read Poem Out] "Keeping Orchids" is about someone who was separated from her biological mother at birth. The central character if the poem struggles to keep the memory of her meeting with her birth-mother alive. This reunion with her mother has affected her deeply, and she feels rejected and frustrated, as it appears her mother has had another child, which although this child is now dead, the mother still kept and cared for it (shown in the line, "a digital watch her daughter was wearing when she died".). The orchids the mother gave the central character could symbolize her relationship with her mother. Throughout the poem Jackie Kay compares her relationship with her mother to the orchids of the title. In line 12 she first makes this analogy between her mothers hands and the orchids when she says "...my mothers hands are all I have". This quote describes how the orchids are expressive and in the authors mind are strongly linked to her mother. ...read more.


This makes the reader feel as though Jackie Kay is desperate to grasp onto any memories of her mother she can, and perhaps even try to reenact them. The phrase "twelve days later," is repeated twice in the first half of the poem, and both times the phrase is used next to an example of physical contact with her mother. The first time receiving the orchids, and the second time holding her hands. When Jackie Kay talks about the orchids container breaking, she could be talking about her mother's death. "... the whole glass carafe has crashed unprovoked...all the broken waters." (line 6). This quote could be a metaphor for how the writer felt when her mother died because it is a sudden and unexplained event. The smashing of the glass gives a good image of how her new relationship would have been destroyed suddenly and seemingly unfairly. "...the broken waters," could symbolize her tears. ...read more.


This makes the central character jealous. Her mother wants to remember the legitimate daughter, but bears no reminder of her illegitimate one, the central character. The final two verses could be interpreted as either slightly sadistical, or a peaceful ending. The line "Airlocks keep the cold air out" again refers to the isolation from her mother in earlier life. However, the lines "Boiling water makes flowers live longer. So does cutting the stems with a sharp knife." Could refer to how although she has gone through lots of hardships (boiling water and the sharp knife, referring to her isolation and anguish, and perhaps her being cut off from her mother), she's come out of it all better. The other interpretation is that she feels angry at her mother and the boiling water and sharp knife refer to how she blames her mother for all her problems, and perhaps even a longing to hurt her, in return for emotionally hurting her by abandoning her as an infant. Jackie Kay was adopted at birth and so "Keeping Orchids" is most likely a recollection of her feelings and memories. ...read more.

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