This poem examines the consequences and challenges of adoption.

The orchids my mother gave me when we first met

The first line throws the reader, as we are surprised to find she has only just met her mother. We then realise the context and the paradox of meeting someone you are so closely related to but who is a complete stranger at the same time.

Kay uses the orchids to depict the mother’s reticence. They also symbolise the difficulties Kay faces in beginning a relationship with someone she lacks connection with.

The meeting must be an emotionally charged one, and yet the mother’s response is to shut down and keep her secrets. She holds her past in a green carrier bag and unpacks it in a systematic fashion. Kay is affected greatly by her mother’s detachment. It is implied that Kay seeks much more from this meeting than her mother is prepared to give.

The line Time is outside waiting suggests that Kay doesn’t need her mother. Her life can go on without her - after all she has lived without her all these years.

But although she can get back to her life, she is left disappointed. Instead of the warmth of reconciliation, she leaves with fragile flowers that appear unresponsive to her care.


Kay explores her regular theme of the connection, or lack of connection, between mother and daughter. The symbol of the orchids reflects different aspects of their relationship.

Here the relationship is portrayed entirely from the daughter's point of view. There are clear suggestions as to Kay's emotions of worry, frustration and anger.

The mother is portrayed as being detached and awkward, unable to confront or explain her past. Kay is keen to reach out to her mother, but is hurt by her lack of emotional engagement. Instead of explicitly describing the problems she experienced, Kay uses the orchids with their ‘closed’ buds to portray the mother’s coldness and the struggle to look after the flowers.