My Mother Gave Me

A poem by Souvankham Thammavongsa

My Mother Gave Me


a photo album. There were a handful


of pictures and I am the same age


in every one. There is one photo of me


and my father on the day he taught me


how to ride my bike. We are laughing


and in the lower left corner is a small


boy sitting on a park bench watching us.


He’s my brother. I always thought


he was the favourite one, the one


they really wanted. I did not think


of what I might have looked like to him.


He is looking on in this photo, sitting


on a park bench. He does not have a bike


of his own. It is the same with his clothes.


The clothes he wore had been mine,


green overalls, blue shirt, all the winter jackets


and snowsuits. Never knowing the feel of new


things. Even the haircut he has is mine.


In a few years, he too will have this bike.


But no one will have taken the time to teach


him how to ride it without the training wheels


because they had come off years before. He


will ride this bike as I left it, like everything else


I had, and it will still be pink and the flowers printed


will still be there. There will be no picture of that day.


There is only a picture of this day.


This day of him sitting on the park bench alone,


hands in his lap, looking on and waiting for his turn.



Souvankham Thammavongsa is appearing at the Vancouver Writers Festival October 2019.

“My Mother Gave Me” from CLUSTER by Souvankham Thammavongsa, Copyright c 2019 Souvankham Thammavongsa. Reprinted by permissions of McClelland & Stewart, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. All rights reserved.

Photograph courtesy of Souvankham Thammavongsa.

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