The poem is a collection of metaphors, each depicting the subject from a different point of view.In the first stanza ‘Water’ is used which is a beautiful analogy because it is life giving and universal no-one can survive without water so suggesting that a mother and water are vital for survival. This also suggests that there is a sense of dependency in their relationship the daughter relies on her mother as the giver of life. The unusual adjectives for explaining the mother suggests that it is difficult to explain her essence, or it is showing the complexity of their relationship and perhaps the complex nature of her mother as a person. The first adjective describing the mother ‘deep’ suggests the vast depth of the oceans and also the depth of her mother’s character and her understanding for her. The mother is also ‘bold’ which implies a certain level of confidence.
‘Fathoming’ has a double meaning to it, the mother could be difficult to work out like the oceans she has hidden depths and unexplored areas and there are always new things to discover. Or the idea of fathoming may also mean that she sees her mother as wise and able to solve out any problem that faces her.The second verse compares her mother to the moon. It suggests that she is a force of nature and is extremely powerful, ‘You were Moon’s eye to me’.
She can clearly imagine her mother who has sight of everything in her world just like the moon sees everything, and keeps a protective eye over her daughter. The use of the verb ‘pull’ on the next line likens the pull of the moon on the tides as being like the pull of her mother on her. The use of the verb ‘mantling’ as an adjective gives the idea of her mother covering and protecting her. Her mother’s love is a complex emotion which is indicated through the word ‘grained’ its surface is not simple and smooth but rough, patterned and irregular showing the convoluted feelings of love.The natural imagery continues with ‘You were sunrise to me’. The image of the sunrise suggests that her mother is there for her every day, her mother’s love is as certain as the sun rising. There is also no way of preventing the sun from rising or preventing her mother from loving her.
The metaphor conjures up an image of something that is beautiful, positive and reassuring, just like her mother. The metaphor continues with a line to describe the movement of the sun ‘rise and warm and streaming’. The use of verbs here confirms the image created in the first part of the metaphor and invites the reader to consider how she responds to the feeling of being loved by her mother. The words ‘warm’ and ‘streaming’ emphasis the comfort she feels because of her mother’s love and the fact that it is everywhere (streaming), filling her life..The penultimate verse deals with the food she associates with her mother. It is all food from the Caribbean, and has comforting and reassuring connotations for Nichols.
‘You were Fishes red gill to me’. The gill is the part of the fish that controls breathing, she is inferring that her mother was as essential to her life as the fishes’ gill. The verse moves on to another metaphor ‘You were The flame tree’s spread to me’ likening her mother to the ‘flame tree’ demonstrates how she felt sheltered by the love and presence of her mother, she felt protected from life. The imagery moves back into food in the final part of this verse ‘the crab’s leg/the fried plantain smell’.
These foods are also typical of those found in the Caribbean and would be fond and comforting memories associated with her past. The idea that she can smell the food shows that her mother’s love affected all of her senses and.