fit you like a sleeve, they hold
catkins of your willows, the wild bee farms
of your nerves, each muscle and fold
of your first days.
—Anne Sexton, "Unknown Girl in the Maternity Ward" (1960)
|Salix cinerea female catkin. (From Wikipedia.)|
Etymology: Taken by Lyte from Dutch katteken ‘kitten’ and ‘catkin’ of hazel, willow, etc. (in Dodoens), diminutive of katte cat. The 16th cent. Latin catulus, French chaton ( < chat ), and German kätzchen, have the same two senses; the catkin being named from its soft downy appearance: compare CATLING n. 4.
A unisexual inflorescence, consisting of rows of apetalous flowers ranged in circles along a slender stalk; the whole forming a cylindrical, downy-looking, and generally pendant part, which falls off in a single piece after flowering or ripening; as in the willow, birch, poplar, pine, hazel, etc.; a deciduous spike; an amentum. (Called by Turner 1568 tagge, and by various 16–17th c. writers aglet.)