Petals of the unknown are just flowers for unknown soldiers. The poem is a lamentation by a persona who is disrespected or looked down upon at his work place. He or she is probably a freedom fighter who has no mansion (large house) in Borrowdale where the rich or affluent live or even a very small three roomed house in Budiriro, a high density suburb where the poor live. He further laments that he drives no Mercedes Benz or a smoking Morris. A benz is a car for the rich whereas a smoking Morris is for the poor. The persona regards himself as very poor where he lives. The second stanza further explains his poverty since he owns no sod of soil. A sod of soil is probably the smallest unit of soil. This shows that the persona is very poor.
Stanza 3 further highlights his woes or problems even at work. The poet uses a simile, ‘stuck at bottom like lead in light liquid’ to show that he is never given an opportunity to rise or get promoted. He further says the ladder is pulled away from his feet implying that even if he is about to be promoted, those in charge pull away the opportunity from him. He is treated like a street kid or a wandering child who has gatecrashed into a private property. The persona here is castigating corruption at the work place. Stanza 4 further laments what will become of the persona when he dies, – that he will not be embalmed or written in history books despite his sacrifice. His fate is just like the thousand ghosts at the tomb of the unknown soldier. He will be forgotten. There is a bitter and sorrowful tone revealed as the persona realizes that he will be forgotten. Despite that, he treasures or values his experience in the liberation struggle and the feat (great achievement) accomplished for others. This is a cry by a veteran of the liberation struggle who has been ignored by those in power, probably after independence. A tone of lamentation pervades the whole poem. The poem is a scathing attack on those who forgot the contribution of others towards the independence of the country. It’s an attack on corruption. Despite fighting in the war, the persona and others like him are very poor and face a gloomy end.