In the first few lines of Thralldom, Saeed Jones uses hunger as a metaphor for desire. He says he “survived on mouthfuls of hyacinth,” which may not be poisonous in small quantities, but in the context of consuming for extreme hunger, would most likely be poisonous to the human body. It gives the idea of purposefully poisoning oneself for the sake of fulfilling desires. Running with the idea of hunger, Jones would not have been able to survive if he didn’t eat something but he chose to eat this plant that could poison him because at the very least it satisfied him. The poem is talking about the sexual experience between two men. In this case it seems to be saying that the speaker had such desires that it didn’t matter to them how the desires were filled. They took the fulfillment in any way they could, even if it was not conducive or practical. With alluding to the hyacinth, the speaker makes this connection of felling like you are nourishing or being productive to yourself in the short term, but in the long term you may actually be hurting yourself. I think there is also an interesting contrast with the idea of beauty. The hyacinth is generally a pretty flower and in many cases may not be seen to be dangerous, but can in fact be deadly. There is this same idea with desire and pleasure, which may seem beautiful from a distance, but can be truly destructive in certain circumstances. I think a lot of kids who grow up not knowing or figuring out their sexuality have a harder time deciphering this because they begin their experience a little later after spending that time figuring out and accepting themselves. This makes it easier to end up in a harmful situation that may seem beautiful because there is this desire and impatience for those experiences.
5 thoughts on “Hyacinth”
I thought your idea of nourishing yourself for the short term but sabotaging yourself in the long term is interesting, and something I could relate to “Drag”. I agree that it is easier for queer children to end up in harmful situations because we see it unfold in “Drag” when the speaker finds himself trapped in a room with an older, more powerful man. At one point, the speaker thought this experience might satisfy him, but when he finds himself over his head his choice has repercussions. The speaker is trapped, similar to the way one is poisoned by a body too full of hyacinth.
The use of hunger to express the desire and need for love and intimacy can also be seen in Jones’ poem Last Call. In this, I really liked your interpretation of poisoning oneself when giving into this hunger. This could be seen as damaging both to social and familial relationships but also tainting your own self image when coming to terms with your true identity. These poems, along with many other works of Jones’, exemplifies the powerful dangers that come along with love.
I enjoyed your analysis, especially when you highlighted that Jones compared his sexual encounters with nature. I have found that Jones often creates metaphors comparing sexuality with nature within many of his poems, including “Kudzu.” Within Kudzu, he compares himself to the Kudzu vine, as he feels similarly invasive to the people around him due to his sexuality.
I agree that a general theme in Jones’ work is how the experience of growing up queer can be an incredibly hard time, and that your interpretation of this poem exemplifies this. It is somewhat similar to to cruel body, where consumption is also mentioned, but in relation to alcohol and an abusive relationship. It seems that Jones uses consumption in a negative context inches works.
I think analyzing the hyacinth as an unhealthy relationship is very interesting. It wasn’t something that occurred to me, but thinking about it now, I think it opens the poem up to a discussion about societal failure around its attitudes towards homosexuality. How, under different circumstances, the speaker wouldn’t feel forced to consume hyacinth, but instead find true fulfillment in a safer environment where queerness isn’t so condemned.
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