Ezra Pound's poem “In a Station of the Metro” is all of twenty words long, counting the title, yet it provides fascinating images and metaphors.
The title gives us the poem’s setting, a Metro station. It seems to be night, and a rainy night at that, for faces appear in the crowd like “Petals on a wet, black bough.” Here is the comparison: people's faces are like flower petals that stand out, bright and visible, against a dark background.
This is an interesting comparison indeed. We do not normally think of faces as flower petals, but the metaphor is appealing, for it suggests life and beauty as well as fragility. Indeed, this is so; people are filled with life, and every face has its own beauty, but we are also fragile. Life can depart in an instant with hardly any warning at all, just like a petal can drop from a flower.
The background for these petals is also interesting. It contrasts to the fragile petals by its darkness. Apparently, the Metro station is dark and gloomy and wet, a rather bleak place, alive only in the people who move through it. Here is where the metaphor breaks down a bit, for a bough is something living, while the Metro station is not. The bough produces petals; the Metro station only serves as a setting for the people in it.
Finally, the poet suggestively uses the word “apparition.” The faces appear, perhaps rather suddenly, out of the Metro station like ghosts. They separate from the crowd and become visible to the observer as individuals.
Indeed, this extremely small poem is filled with images and comparisons that pack it with rich meaning and plenty of food for thought.