Why does "To a Sad Daughter" by Michael Ondaatje use the word "Sad" to describe his daughter?

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jjohnson112 | Elementary School Teacher | (Level 3) Adjunct Educator

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The poem "To a Sad Daughter," by Michael Ondaatje, is a beautiful, almost letter of advice from a father to his daughter.  

The fact that Ondaatje titles his poem to his "daughter" is significant, because otherwise one might think he is writing the poem to a son.  His daughter is not a typical daughter because she seems to be obsessed with hockey:

All night long the hockey pictures

gaze down at you sleeping in your tracksuit.

Belligerent goalies are your ideal.

Threats of being traded

cuts and wounds —

all this pleases you.

Without the title, the reader wouldn't know he was talking about a daughter until the second stanza.  However, why does he refer to her as "sad"?

In the second stanza he refers to her "purple moods" where she "retreats from everyone."  The color purple is frequently associated with sadness and melancholy.

In the last stanza, the reader finally gets an idea why she could be sad.  The author writes,

If I speak of death,

which you fear now, greatly,

it is without answers.

These lines hint at the fact the daughter is upset over a recent death, or possibly a death to come.  

An interesting juxtaposition of the color purple is also the use of the color yellow in the poem.  In the seventh stanza, he mentions forsythia, a bright yellow flower.  

Forsythia outside the window

and sun spilled over you

like a thick yellow miracle

While purple is the color of sadness and melancholy, yellow is often the color of springtime and hope.  This suggests that although she can at times be sad, as all teenagers find themselves from time to time, he also sees in her the yellow of springtime, hopefulness, and happiness.  

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