by Ted Hughes
Poppies do tend to be most often flame-colored, and so it's no real surprise that there are a fair number of references to heat in this poem – both as a kind of sexual trope (theme) and as a force of destruction (as in literal fire burning something down). Again, the multiple references to heat-related things in this poem build a multilayered kind of symbolism that complicates and enriches the poppy as the central image of the piece.
- Line 1: Oh, look – the very first word of the poem is "hot"! In this case, the heat is being applied to the center, or "eye," of the flower, and doesn't actually mean literal heat. Instead, it both personifies the flower as something that can be "hot-eyed" and gives us a sense right off the bat that the flower is going to be way more than a trivial thing.
- Lines 9-10: Another two-for-the-price of one in these lines here – interestingly, the first heat-related image, "sizzling bleats," is related to the bumblebee, not to the flower. But it does seem to describe the effect that the flower has on the bee (yowza). In the next line, we get the first subtle reference to flames in "luminous near-orange."
- Lines 13-14: The crucible is doing double-duty – not only is it a container, which is also thematic in the poem, but it's a reference to heat, which by this point is beginning to turn destructive. Indeed, it's nearly hyperbolic – the flower's color and short life span are so intense and brief that it's always at risk of "falling apart."
- Line 15: This brief line sets up a tiny contrast between the fly ("cool") and the flower, whose petals are called "flame-fringe."