"Mother, any distance" is a poem by the popular British poet Simon Armitage, published in the collection Book of Matches (2001). The premise of the poem is relatively simple: the speaker calls on their mother for help setting up a new home. Specifically, the speaker needs more hands on deck to help measure the dimensions of different rooms, doors, windows, and so on, presumably in order to decorate and furnish the place. Of course, the poem is about a lot more than home improvement. As the speaker and mother extend the tape measure between them, it becomes a metaphor for the enduring strength of the relationship between mothers and children.
Mother, any distance ...
... of the floors.
You at the ...
... us. Anchor. Kite.
I space-walk through ...
... has to give;
two floors below ...
... fall or fly.
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.
Armitage's Life and Work — A valuable resource from the Poetry Foundation, with more poems and biographical information about Armitage.
Mother's Day Poems — A fine selection of other poems that also look at the mother-child relationship.
Walking Home — An interesting discussion with Armitage about his book Walking Home.
The Poem Read by the Man Himself — Simon Armitage reads "Mother, any distance."
Poetry as Dissent — Armitage discusses the "obstinate nature of poetry" in this video interview with The Guardian.
1Mother, any distance greater than a single span
2requires a second pair of hands.
3You come to help me measure windows, pelmets, doors,
4the acres of the walls, the prairies of the floors.
5You at the zero-end, me with the spool of tape, recording
6length, reporting metres, centimetres back to base, then leaving
7up the stairs, the line still feeding out, unreeling
8years between us. Anchor. Kite.
9I space-walk through the empty bedrooms, climb
10the ladder to the loft, to breaking point, where something
11has to give;
12two floors below your fingertips still pinch
13the last one-hundredth of an inch...I reach
14towards a hatch that opens on an endless sky
15to fall or fly.