‘The Florist’s at Midnight’ is a poem concentrating on the superfluous trade of flowers, making us appear almost murderous while we ‘nail’, ‘cloister’ and tear flowers ‘up from their roots’. Maguire uses bold, contrasting and religious imagery to assist in conveying her thoughts and making us question our actions.
Aggressive imagery is extended throughout the poem (the ‘stems bleed’, they are ‘cloistered in cellophane’, have a ‘wax shawl curl(ing) round (their) throat’ and they are ‘stood in zinc buckets’ in ‘clouding dank water’) to emphasise the reality that these flowers were once growing, had a ‘promise of pollen’ and were ultimately alive, but have now been brutally ‘torn up from their roots’ and turned into ‘cargo’, merchandise, for us to buy. Personification of the flowers is another technique used, parallel to this one of aggressive imagery, to further highlight the fact that we have murdered these flowers that were once alive, as we are ~ the ‘dark mouth’ of a lily, once full of ‘breath’, has now been suffocated by its own ‘wax shawl curl(ing) around its throat’ and ‘packed’ in ‘buckets’.
The use of enjambment at the start of the poem reinforces the flow of the plants breathing, again granting them a human-like quality and reminding us that they too, were living beings. After we hear that they have travelled ‘across continents’ and are now destined to ‘fade far from home’ there are no further references to the flowers as being human-like; this reiterates the fact that they are now cargo and their personality and life has been removed.
There is an also ongoing reference to various weather conditions ~ the ‘bleed(ing)’ ‘stems’ ‘cloud’ the ‘dank water’ and the ‘chill air is humid’; the ‘clouding’ and ‘mist’ mentioned is almost depressing and links the start of the poem to the very end, where ‘rain (is) printing the tarmac’ and the negative ambience that was apparent from the beginning of the poem continues right until the finish. Maguire’s opinion of the aggressive treatment of these flowers has not changed.
While the brutality of the imagery mentioned before describes the elimination of character from these flowers, the use of religious imagery supports the motion that they were ‘torn up’ to be turned into ‘cargo’ and although this was unnecessary on our part, that the flowers took it courageously; the ‘packed buckets’ that have been ‘nailed to the wall’ is symbolic of the crucifying of Jesus. The religious theme is continued when there is a mention of a ‘cloister’ of flowers ~ a ‘cloister’ is normally associated with monks, but in the poem refers to the close packing of the flowers, which are now being looked at as carrying a great significance by being compared to these monks, the flowers have been given meaning, a purpose, other than that of being ‘cargoed across continents’ for us to look at and not even remember (‘…everyone has gone…’)
The use of contrasting imagery is also significant ~ the ‘solitary’ and ‘alert’ ‘arum lily’ conflicts boldly with the flowers ‘cloistered in cellophane’ and suggests a theme of isolation, which is supported once more through the use of alliteration (‘fade far from home…’) and works with the suggestion that these flowers are superfluously ripped from the ground. Contrast can also be seen in the line ‘all night the chill air is humid…’
This poem has regular three line verses with no rhyme scheme; this regularity and continuity suggests that the flowers will always be ‘torn up from their roots’ and the image of a ‘bucket…nailed to the wall’ along with the metaphor of ‘rain printing the tarmac’ by the flowers also suggests permanence, supporting this theory. Enjambment is used frequently throughout the poem, helping it flow from verse to verse mirroring the number of flowers ‘spill(ing) down from tiered shelving’ and breathing to form ‘pools…of mist’; this adds life to the flowers and gives a feeling of continuity.
I previously mentioned that this poem makes us query our mindless actions as humans and it does, but on a wider scale than just the destruction of flowers. The religious references give broader meaning to the poem as well as the closing verse (“…the streetlights in pieces on the floor.”) which works with the religious imagery, the crucification of Jesus, emphasising the consequences to thoughtless actions.