The poem explores the joy of motherhood and the happiness of the process of motherhood from her daughter being a baby to envisioning her potential future. The poem begins by focusing on her daughter as a baby. Duffy moves through images and by the end of the poem, the daughter has captured the brilliant light of the ‘moon’, her shine lighting up Duffy’s world.
- A reference to a new-born child, who hands are folded. The idea of ‘cupped’ also suggests an offering, perhaps with religious overtones, potentially to the parent: ‘When you were small, your cupped palms’
- A candle symbolises new life and warmth and happiness, which the baby brought into the speaker’s life. It may also represent purity and innocence. That the candlelight was “under” the baby’s skin suggests that the light was generated within her: ‘each held a candlesworth under your skin’
- The idea of light growing within the child suggests inner purity. The ‘clear raindrops’ acknowledge that a baby will cry, but these tears are positive and reflect what exists within: ‘and as you grew light gathered in you, two clear raindrops in your eyes’
- Pearls are mentioned in the bible, notably the parable in Matthew 13-46(‘Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it’): ‘warm pearls’
- A reference to when the child has been crying, the speaker sees the ‘light’ and joy the child gives to her: ‘the light of a smile after your tears’
- A reference to John 13-12, where Jesus washes the feet of the disciples. This continues the religious theme; the baby has spiritual significance beyond its earthly existence: ‘Your feet glowed in my one hand’
- The reference to ‘fish’ may represent words as they are learned by the child. The process of learning to speak is often seen as challenging a big talent, fish are often silver, and words are precious.
- The reference to the flow of a river suggests the speed with which language comes to small children: ‘the crown of your bowed head spotlit. When language came, it glittered like a river, silver, clever with fish’
- The moon is an image that provides comfort to Duffy in other poems, such as within Sub: ‘and you slept with the whole moon held in your arms’
- A religious reference to the mother worshipping her baby: ‘ I knelt watching’
- This might be a reference to Plato’s cave (The allegory of the cave, or Plato’s Cave, was presented by the Greek philosopher Plato in his work Republic (514a–520a) to compare “the effect of education and the lack of it on our nature: ‘like a jewelled cave’
- The jewels may represent the wonder of knowledge. The parent guides them through the ‘tunnel’ after which the grown child will escape and make her own life free of the parents: ‘like a jewelled cave, turquoise and diamond and gold, opening out at the end of a tunnel of years’
The poem explores the joy of motherhood and the happiness of the process of motherhood from her daughter being a baby to envisioning her potential future. The poem begins by focusing on her daughter as a baby. Duffy moves through images and by the end of the poem, the daughter has captured the brilliant light of the ‘moon’, her shine lighting up Duffy’s world. With the final stanza focusing on the promise of a bright future, the use of light representing the joy that her daughter brings Duffy, and the promise she holds for the future.