by Ted Hughes
Stanza 1 Summary
Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
Hot-eyed Mafia Queen!
At the trim garden's edge
- What a bizarre way to start a poem that's supposed to be about a flower! Last time we checked, flowers didn't have much to do with the Mafia. So what's going on here?
- One way in which we might be able to pry this first line apart would be to actually think about a poppy (thank goodness for the title, otherwise we might be totally lost). What does it look like?
- Well, one of the distinguishing features of a poppy is its center – a common kind of poppy is a really bright orange-red color with a purple-black center. (Check out this picture.) That's where the "eye" part in this first line probably comes from.
- As for the Mafia Queen part? Hmm. That's a little more vague. Let's see – another thing we know about poppies is that you can make drugs from them. Namely, expensive drugs like opium and heroin. The mafia is certainly involved in the drug trade, traditionally…there's a connection!
- And the Queen part? Well, considering the fact that without the poppy, you can't manufacture opium or heroin, the flower becomes the thing to which the "mafia" is, quite literally, subject – in other words, anyone wanting to make an opiate needs a poppy. The poppy rules.
- Also, this implies that the poppy is a female, which is kind of a traditional move on the poem's part – flowers are typically associated with things like femininity. In reality, poppies don't have genders.
- Whew. It's a good thing that after all that, the next line is pretty simple – it's a locator. We're at a "trim garden's edge."
- One interesting note about that – the poem in these first two lines sets up an interesting contradiction between something kind of wild (after all, the first line does deal with the mafia and ends on an exclamation point) and something very conventional (the "trim garden"). Wonder what this little bit of tension tells us here?