Ode to a Daffodil

Ode to a Daffodil

A Poem by Zoe Jay

I remember a day
when I was about six…

The day I saw the daffodil.

It was as yellow as a ripe lemon at the edges,
pale, and looking almost bleached,
like my mother’s yellow cleaning rags,
when they were old and faded from ammonia.
It was playing it’s delicate trumpet for the sun,
courting the bees with it’s sugary orange center…
a little world, balanced on a slender green stem.
Fragile enough to be crushed at a stroke,
even by a six year old.
I looked at it real close,
and I saw the softness of the moon-dust
that seemed to coat the bloom in velvet,
and I saw the brightness of the shine
as it reflected the sun at my face like a spot-lamp,
and I smelled the scent, sweet and fresh and new…
an exit to another world.

I had never seen a daffodil before.
There were no flowers where I lived.
Nothing would grow in concrete and filth.
And nobody cared to try.
Who would buy seeds, here?
Who buys paint, or toys, or flowers,
to decorate a pit they have fallen into?
You’re always going to get out tomorrow.
But they never got out, and they never learned,
that if you bought the paint, and the flowers,
perhaps you wouldn’t need to get out.

My mother died without ever having a garden.
She never planted a seed nor tended a shoot.

When I was six, I thought that flowers
were made of crepe paper and foil.

And then I saw the daffodil.

A remnant of a happier time,
one solitary daffodil,
a lone survivor,
still blooming and living,
amidst concrete, and chaos,
and urine stains, and trash,
in the one bright corner of a dark wasteland.

A few days later, it was withered and dead.
It was the first time I really got to see death.
Up close and personal.
I watched it slowly droop,
and dry up, and turn brown,
over the course of three days.


I remember a day
when I was about twelve…

I saw a daffodil.

It was a different daffodil,
in a different place,
further away,
but not too far…
not outside of the circle of filth,
the invisible fence that enclosed us,
a barrier greater than China’s Wall,
unconquerable, unbroachable,
better protected than federal gold,
and yet… not actually there.

I stood in the cool spring warmth,
and I looked at the flower,
and I saw it’s fragile beauty,
it’s defiance of the filth,
it’s willingness to live,
to tolerate this dross…
and I was angry.

And I thought of how that defiance would wither,
how it would crumble away to dust,
and in just a few days,
that face of beauty,
would be just a streak of green scum. 

And I was angry.

I snatched at the stem and pulled it from the ground and crushed it in my hands and shredded the petals into golden confetti and threw them to the floor and stamped on the remains and turned them into filth.

I have to tolerate this filthy existence.
The beautiful flower will not have to.
It’s defiance will never have to wither.
I will never have to watch it die slowly.


I remember a day
when I was about sixteen…

I saw a girl.

The first girl I ever thought was truly beautiful.
She had curly blonde hair and a yellow shirt,
and a sunny face in a permanent smile…
even though she lived here,
in this grim garden of destitution.

She was positive. She was defiant.
I looked at her, and I wanted to look so close,
to see the soft velvety bloom on her skin,
to smell her scent, sweet and fresh,
and to escape, and to start anew.
She was a whole world,
a world that teetered in every breeze,
adrift at the end of a long stem.
Hypnotized, I drank her in,
smelling her scent, and admiring her bloom,
feeling the warmth she reflected onto me.

For years, I drank her dry,
intoxicated by her smile and her smell,
living on her defiance,
existing on her will to live.
She was the flower in my wilderness,
in my concrete and chaos.


I remember a day
when I was about twenty five…

I saw a girl.

This girl wasn’t like my girl.
She was withered and brown,
turning to dust, hunched,
drooping and dry, ready to die.

She was wearing a yellow t-shirt.
But it was faded near the top.

She was standing near my front “door”,
polishing the filth with a yellow cloth,
prepared to tolerate this, to try to live,
defying the dirt as it strangled her…

And I was angry.

I thought of my mother’s cleaning rags,
old and threadbare, yellow, with big faded patches,
where the ammonia had thinned the cloth,
and you could see the sunlight through them,
as they dried out in the breeze.

My mother was twenty five, the day I first saw a daffodil.
I remember her hands were red from cleaning,
with bleach and vinegar and wax.

She tried, but she didn’t want me, and she didn’t want her life.

And I was angry...


I remember a day
when I was about thirty six…

I saw a girl.

She was as beautiful as a flower.
Perfect, and fragile, and joyful, and blooming.
And coming out of another s**t pit.
Another of the parasite dens we call “home”.
Followed by another of our s**t-dwelling weasels.
Six feet six with a gang tattoo,
expensive jeans,
cheap after-shave,
blank expression,
gold jewelry,

And I was angry.

I strode right across that street,
and I punched that girl right in the face.
and I knocked her right on her a*s,
right from the blue,
while the muscle-toting weasel,
simply grunted in slack-jawed shock.

As he muscled me away, and the lights went out,
I remember…
stamping on her pretty face.


I remember a day
when I was about fifty…

I saw… my wife’s beautiful face.

Her beautiful face, cradled in my dirty hands,
so peaceful, so perfect, so fragile.

And I loved her more than I had ever loved her.
I needed her more than I had ever needed her.
I admired her more than I had ever admired her.

I remember the sound, such a tiny sound, really,
the sound of her neck snapping as she slept.


I remember a day
when I was about sixty…

I saw a daffodil.

I saw it outside, I could just see it,
at the very edge of the narrow slot of reality,
that the window allowed me.
It was the only flower I could see.
Nodding it’s yellow head in the sunshine,
one flower, in one bright corner of a dark prison yard.

But this time, I was free.
I didn’t need to kill that bloom.

That day was yesterday.
And today, they will kill me.
And tomorrow, that daffodil will still be there. 

© 2013 Zoe Jay

My Review

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Featured Review

OMG, Zoe, this is amazing..not the cliche OMG, but the one with true meaning.
So What is right, this poem is a marvel, and only two reviwes?..hard to believe.

The poem is real, down and dirty..ghetto real...real in the sense that it happens everyday..people lead wretched lives, the world looks different to them from the filth of Watts, or looking out the window in the South Bronx..There are no daffodils there, and if there was, they would be smashed and scattered..this is where your word pictures have taken me..

I love how the poem comes of age as the boy does, how at tweleve he realized what his life was to be like, how he rebelled by destroying beauty..The longer lines of rebellion are the most profound (to me) in the poem.

"I snatched at the stem and pulled it from the ground and crushed it in my hands and shredded the petals into golden confetti and threw them to the floor and stamped on the remains and turned them into filth"

Which leads to where that kind of rage and violence always leads, and that is to more of the same..

"I remember the sound, such a tiny sound, really,
the sound of her neck snapping as she slept."

And so, the poem becomes political for me..My feelings are that a child bereft of beauty in its surroundings will mimic what it was shown in later life. Instead of building playgrounds we build bombs, and prisons to contain what that choice of constrution has birthed.
Somehow I feel the poem ends on a note of hope..

"That day was yesterday.
And today, they will kill me.

And tomorrow, that daffodil will still be there."

The daffodil is the "thing with feathers", but it doesn't fly away.
It relies on us to see its beauty, and to responde to it. It dies last.

I ramble, I know, but when I read a poem such as this, I get emotional, and that, in a nutshell, is why I read poetry in the first place..
Thank you Zoe, for saying me this poem.

Posted 10 Years Ago

3 of 3 people found this review constructive.


Tonight, as I often do, I had a serendipitous trawl thorugh the cafe. It was a bad night. If vampires were not slaking, then hips were snaking and thighs were caressing and surrogate cafe Gods were giving blessing. And then for some reason I clicked on your icon.
I feel I should now buy a lottery ticket.
Unlike Wordsworth you have related the daffodil to the real world and not some metaphorical one. it is softly romantic, but tough as old boots. A romantic soul trapped somewhere in a modern homicidal angry psyche. The obsession with the dafoddil gives us the problem of forgiving the protagonist: how/why could such a sensitive soul commit murder There are so many questions to be raised by this poem, I almost wish I belonged to a poetry group. And it is crafted, often slyly, to catch the reader unawares.
It is truly one of the best poems that I have read on this site: I am sure that you have a career as a writer ahead of you.
ATB and thanks very much. I go trawling no more: I go to sit and think.
Lang may yir lum reek.

Posted 9 Years Ago

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I love the symposlism in this piece!

Posted 10 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

F*****g excellent...and I mean that.

Sorry for dropping the F-bomb, but this should be published in a well-known anthology. This is a great poem about how life can survive even against the toughest odds, which is why this could a great metaphor for life on this planet when it compared against the harsh universe we've grown up in. Nice job.

Posted 10 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Ohh this is a masterpiece.I love this so much .I can not review like you but this grabbed me by the heart and ripped.I used to work for citizens action coalition and my job was to get slum dwellers involved in trying to stop a toxic waste dump from moving down the street.The comon response from the lss fortunate folks was.I live in this hell hole so what do I care if they add a toxic dump,but one day I will move.It was frustrating.Living in the filthy places we are forced can dirty the entire world for a child.You hit me hard with this one.

Posted 10 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

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a beautiful twist to a sad realization. the flow and imagery are outstanding. brilliant write

Posted 10 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

You know, this is amazing work! The pace, the imagery, stunning, I am seriously in awe! The life relating to a daffodil, humble and yet hard! Brilliant work love :) xx

Posted 10 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

I really adore this poem, I normally can't sit through longer poems but I was enticed by the imagery and the memory in the beginning of my childhood, a little girl longing to put as many flowers in my hair as possible. This is so beautiful and well written. I loved it from start to finish. The fact that you can write so much about something so little, wow, amazing.

Posted 10 Years Ago

2 of 2 people found this review constructive.

It took me awhile to get around to reviewing this. I admit that I took it in pieces--I'm not generally one for long poems, being a victim of internet-reduced-attention-span, but I was committed to getting through it, and I am glad I did. It is a beautiful piece of nostalgia you have served up here, rife with vivid imagery and passionate wording, all of which building to a powerful conclusion. I can see why you chose to feature this work. You have every reason to be proud of it.

Posted 10 Years Ago

2 of 2 people found this review constructive.

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34 Reviews
Shelved in 9 Libraries
Added on March 14, 2011
Last Updated on July 28, 2013
Tags: life, daffodil, hate, anger, fear, angst, dysfunction, joy, happiness, death, killing, murder, mercy killing, morality, death sentence, death row, memories, experiences, poverty, deprivation, control


Zoe Jay
Zoe Jay

Los Angeles, CA

I come from Fife, in Scotland, and I now live in Los Angeles and run a business in the music industry. I've been writing poetry for about as long as I could write! I had a poetry collection published .. more..

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