Not Yet My Mother

Yesterday I found a photo
of you at seventeen,
holding a horse and smiling,
not yet my mother.
The tight riding hat hid your hair,
and your legs were still the long shins of a boy’s.
You held the horse by the halter,
your hand a fist under its huge jaw.
The blown trees were still in the background
and the sky was grained by the old film stock,
but what caught me was your face,
which was mine.
And I thought, just for a second, that you were me.
But then I saw the woman’s jacket,
nipped at the waist, the ballooned jodhpurs,
and of course the date, scratched in the corner.
All of which told me again,
that this was you at seventeen, holding a horse
and smiling, not yet my mother,
although I was clearly already your child.

– Owen Sheers


A poignant poem about family, relationships and identity. I so often wonder about people who look very like one parent or the other – what’s that like? I don’t look like either one of my parents, I think, although I’ve heard I look like one or the other from various people.
This also talks about the moment of realising that our parents were people before they were our parents, that they have an identity outside of their relationship to us, with us. Most people can probably remember when they first understood this; despite knowing this, it still has the power to surprise us, catch us off guard.
You can read more about the poet and hear him reading this poem out at the Poetry Archive. You can read a biography of him here and an article about his venture into screenwriting, among other things, here.

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