"Plenty" is a poem by South African poet Isobel Dixon, published in her 2001 collection Weather Eye. In the poem, the speaker reminisces about her childhood, a time marked by poverty and drought, and in focuses in particular about her strained relationship with her mother. The poem illustrates the way that time and maturity has changed the speaker's perspective so that she now understands the difficulty of her mother's situation and respects the ways she was able to provide for her and her sisters. The speaker finally comes to feel that though they didn't have much in the way of material wealth, they still had "plenty" of love and support.
When I was ...
... mother’s quiet despair,
our old enamel ...
... was never full.
Such plenty was ...
... Like Mommy’s smile.
Her lips stretched ...
... all from chaos.
She saw it ...
... hard on this.
We thought her ...
... another precious inch
up to our ...
... old compliant co-conspirators.
Now bubbles lap ... am a sybarite.
The shower’s a ...
... the heating on.
And miss my ...
... our long childhood.
Select any word below to get its definition in the context of the poem. The words are listed in the order in which they appear in the poem.
"About Me" — A brief introduction to Isobel Dixon, written by the poet herself.
More Poems About Childhood — A roundup other poems that involve speakers reminiscing on their childhoods.
The Poem Out Loud — A video recording of Dixon reading "Plenty" at Poetry Parnassus in 2012.
The Karoo — A compilation of images of the Karoo region of South Africa.
An Interview with Dixon — A conversation with Dixon for LitNet.
1When I was young and there were five of us,
2all running riot to my mother’s quiet despair,
3our old enamel tub, age-stained and pocked
4upon its griffin claws, was never full.
5Such plenty was too dear in our expanse of drought
6where dams leaked dry and windmills stalled.
7Like Mommy’s smile. Her lips stretched back
8and anchored down, in anger at some fault –
9of mine, I thought – not knowing then
10it was a clasp to keep us all from chaos.
11She saw it always, snapping locks and straps,
12the spilling: sums and worries, shopping lists
13for aspirin, porridge, petrol, bread.
14Even the toilet paper counted,
15and each month was weeks too long.
16Her mouth a lid clamped hard on this.
17We thought her mean. Skipped chores,
18swiped biscuits – best of all
19when she was out of earshot
20stole another precious inch
21up to our chests, such lovely sin,
22lolling luxuriant in secret warmth
23disgorged from fat brass taps,
24our old compliant co-conspirators.
25Now bubbles lap my chin. I am a sybarite.
26The shower’s a hot cascade
27and water’s plentiful, to excess, almost, here.
28I leave the heating on.
29And miss my scattered sisters,
30all those bathroom squabbles and, at last,
31my mother’s smile, loosed from the bonds
32of lean, dry times and our long childhood.