Orchids Poem by Hazel Simmons-McDonald Summary, Notes and Line by Line Explanation in English


The poem “Orchids” is written by Hazel Simmons-McDonald. The poem talks about a woman who is moving to a new flat and has just finished packing up her life, i.e. all her things and the only thing left in the empty flat is the dead orchids. This was given by someone who compulsively gives out flowers to everyone and thus it has no special value to the speaker.

About the poet

Hazel Simmons-McDonald was born in 1947 in St. Lucia. She is a writer and also a linguist. Her poems have been published in the collection “Silk Cotton and Other Trees” in 2004. And her poem “Parasite” is renowned and appeared in the “Oxford Book of Caribbean Verse”.


The poem is written in 24 lines. Each line makes up a stanza in the poem.

Stanza 1

I leave this house

box pieces of the five-week life I’ve gathered.


The poet persona is leaving the house in which she has only lived for five weeks. She packs all the things she had used in the house.


The persona is leaving the house. This could mean that she is moving on and preparing for her future. She packs her things in boxes and compares these box “pieces” to her “life”. This shows that she is transitioning into a new life.

Stanza 2

I’ll send them on

to fill spaces in my future life.


The persona will send the thing in boxes ahead to her new house. These things will fill the space in her new life in the new house.


The persona thinks that these things do not have any other function but to fill the space in her life. She does not hold any sentimental value to her things and is only focused on using them to live her life.

Stanza 3

One thing is left

a spray of orchids someone gave

from a bouquet one who 

makes a ritual of flower-giving sent.


The house is empty, all her things are packed. The only thing left in the empty hose is a bouquet of orchids. She tells the reader that the flowers were given to her by someone who makes a habit out of flower giving. This could be a friend or just an acquaintance.


The persona has packed everything in boxes except for a “spray of orchids”. She did not pack them because she did not really like them or think they were special. She says that the bouquet was given by someone who compulsively gives flowers to everyone. So there was no special thought behind the action, it was just a passing act.

Stanza 4 

The orchids have no fragrance

but purple petals draw you

to look at the purple heart.


The persona says that the flowers have no fragrance anymore. And thus they don’t attract her too much. But the vibrancy of the color of their petals attracts attention and make one look at the heart in the center.


The flowers have no smell, which is one of the most important qualities one looks for in a flower. But the persona says that the color of the petals of the flower is a vibrant purple. This shade is very pleasing to the eye and thus attracts the attention. Once you get close, the attention is drawn towards the center of the flower, which is the heart of the orchids.

Stanza 5

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 persona says that she took care for them and watered them once, when she got them. The flowers were in full bloom at that time and she compared them to polished poems. She had thought that after watering them only once, the flowers would die and she would throw them out with the trash.


The fact that the persona only watered them once, shows how indifferent she was to their caretaking. She saw them in full blossom but did not take any efforts to maintain their beauty for long. She thought that they were worth only watering once. She uses alliteration and compares them to “polished poems” and in this way appreciates their beauty like a well crafted poem. Her aim was to let them wither and die and just throw them out when she moved in five weeks.

Stanza 6

They were stubborn.

I starved them.

They would not die.


The persona says that the orchids were stubborn and did not die in the five weeks. She starved them, i.e. did not water them, but they still did not wither away.


The poet personifies the flowers and calls them stubborn as they survived the five weeks even though the persona “starved them”. This shows that the persona was not only indifferent to them, but actually wanted to cause them harm and watch them die. But this does not happen because the orchids survive it.

Stanza 7

This morning the bud at the stalk’s tip unfurled.

I think I’ll pluck the full-blown blooms

press them between pages of memory.

Perhaps in their thin dried transparency

I’ll discover their peculiar poetry.


The persona notices that a new bud had formed on the flowers in the morning. She says that she plans to pluck the new bloomed flower and press and preserve it between the pages of a book. The pesona wishes to preserve them so that she can analyze them later and find some meaning or poetry in them.


By the end of the poem, the persona seems to have been impacted by the perseverance of the orchids. That is why she now plans to save the new blooms and press them between pages. She wants to hold onto them now. She wants to do that so that she can analyze them later and find out more about their uniqueness and keep them as souvenirs. These blooms are now like a mystery to her and she wants to find out more about their “peculiar poetry”.