Imagery is abundant in "To My Nine-Year-Old Self." Throughout the poem, Dunmore uses imagery to engage the reader, develop the character of both the speaker and her younger self, and establish symbolism.
In the first stanza, the speaker observes that her past self might leave "balancing on [her] hands or on the tightrope." An individual who walks on their hands or on the tightrope is playful and unafraid of falling. Therefore, the imagery associates the speaker's younger self with these qualities of playfulness and fearlessness. The imagery of these physical acts also highlights the fact that the nine-year-old self's body is physically fit and flexible, again highlighting her youthful vigor (which will be contrasted against the speaker's adult body in the next stanza).
In the second stanza, the speaker shows her younger self the way she has "spoiled" their body. The speaker displays her "scars" and "the way [she] moves, / careful of a bad back or a bruised foot." The imagery of the speaker's "scars" and "careful" movement emphasizes her physical frailness and cautiousness. Scars can be understood metaphorically as a sign of emotional trauma as well.
At the end of stanza 2, the speaker refers to a routine she shared with her younger self. "[T]hree minutes after waking," the speaker explains, "we'd jump straight out of the ground floor window." Rather than jumping out of the window onto the lawn outside, the imagery here takes an unusual turn. The speaker's younger self, in fact, jumps "into the summer morning." Summer represents growth, warmth, and potential, and as such the act of jumping "into the summer morning" is a symbolic embrace of these qualities. The imagery, therefore, suggests that the younger self embodies joyful exuberance and lives fully in the moment.
Throughout the poem, the vivid imagery also highlights the dynamism of the speaker's childhood world. At the end of stanza 4 and the beginning of stanza 5, the speaker leaves her younger self to her own devices, suggesting that she "pick rosehips," "hide down scared lanes / from men in cars after girl-children," or "lunge out over the water / on a rope that swings from that tree." The imagery of "picking rosehips" and swinging "over the water ... on a rope" hanging from a tree develops the idyllic sense of the speaker's childhood. The act of "hid[ing]" in the streets from imagined kidnappers, while not an idyllic image, nevertheless vividly evokes the emotions and fears of children. Her younger self's world is, therefore, extremely dynamic, containing within it a range of powerful emotions and beauty.