Form and structure

Use of couplets

Kay structures the poem using couplets until the last line.

The two line stanzas suggest a sense of coming together, as these two women unite; however, the frequent use of enjambment and caesura unsettle the reader.

The poem never fits into the type of set rhythm that is common with writing in couplets. Perhaps Kay is reflecting the unease between her mother and herself, as each woman tries to understand the other.

The last line is on its own reflecting the poet’s separation from her mother.

Orchid as symbol

The poem begins and ends with the orchids. This stresses their significance. Kay projects her emotions onto the flowers, leaving the poem itself detached in tone.

The orchids are used as a symbol for:

  • the potential relationship between Kay and her birth mother
  • Kay herself, as a baby who needs to be nurtured and cared for
  • the mother's guarded and secretive personality

The orchids are ‘still alive’ at the beginning of the poem. By the end, they are in need of extreme measures to make them ‘live longer’. The last line of the poem stands alone, carrying a sense of finality.

The poem ends on a description of ‘cutting’ with a ‘sharp knife’. This could suggest severing ties and separation:

  • between the mother and daughter who struggle to reunite
  • the initial separation between mother and baby when Kay was put up for adoption

There is a feeling of dissatisfaction, frustration and even anger. It is uncertain whether Kay will continues to ‘keep’ the orchids.