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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