Suitable for ages 16+

**trigger warning: termination**

View this poem as an animation by Alice Humphreys, created in collaboration with Rebecca Tantony and musically composed by Brook Tate below.

Seventeen from Alice Humphreys on Vimeo.


The clinician’s room is a heaven, where routine and miracle rush in and out. Go well, the nurse says with her eyes. I mouth a thank you back to her, grab my coat, count all I have lost and survived be-fore this.


I was in a Weatherspoon’s toilet when I discovered you existed. Although I’d collected possibilities of you before; as I stroked the soft fur of our dog, when I’d help my younger brother walk again after falling, while planting roses around that old ash.


Varanasi. Stood at the Ghats watching funeral pyres. I want to turn away but continue to stare, un-til nothing of them remains. I look up, and remember the sky.


Tasha ate most of the pizza and just downed a pint of beer in under one minute. We slam our palms onto the bar and shout out in support. She burps, lifts up her t-shirt and outlines the curve of her stomach, as if it is an egg. Looks like I’m pregnant, she jokes. We all crack up, yet everyone else laughs long into the night.


I keep buying peace lilies, west elms, dracaenas, then forget to water them.


I realise the connection between us isn’t linear. Although I trace a line of you that runs from my heart to my feet and then hang it from an acacia tree.


My friends suggest seeing a psychic. I am skeptical until the physic says a little girl is trying to reach me. Before this moment I had never thought of you as a little girl. What does she want to say, I whisper. There is a bloom of silence that uncurls between us all. That she understands, the physic offers and my whole body becomes a forest, an alleyway of trees, where we play hide and seek inside.


I might have called you Roma. I practice saying it on the walk home from the pub. It fits between teeth and tonsils. I tuck it under my tongue for the days I want to name hope.


A teenager holding her baby. She looks like she knows what to do; her hands purposed, her nails the colour of new blood and she is some kind of God. Back then, I was some kind of God too.


I see a version of you today in the cafe near my house. Eating a chocolate cake in fistfuls. When our faces found one another, mine turned into the sun and burnt an entire future with a bright burst of feeling. Yours continued to glow.


I am a godmother to five children. Sometimes I forget their names, I often forget when they were born, I never forget how to love them.


I dreamt you last night. Your harmonica heart, choir throat, his trumpeter ears, my drum-kit stom-ach, you kicked, then this rush of water, the birthing of an orchestra, half of us both set free.


I have just counted fifteen plants in my flat, all of which I’ve kept for over a year. Most of which look healthy and nourished. When it’s sunny, the light enters from my bedroom and pushes straight through into the back garden. On days like this, everything is lit up and you and I could stand in that light forever.


You would have been thirteen now. I was seventeen when I made you. Thirteen plus seventeen makes thirty. You plus me, makes me. Me plus you, makes you. Plus, all the years that had unfold-ed between us. Take away all feeling. Take away the loss of air. Add the wind on a spring afternoon in Cornwall. Watch it whip the sea upwards. Take away doubt. Add trust, in the seventeen-year-old version of myself and her ability to know what is best for us both. Add a feeling of you and I here to-gether. Even for a moment in time. Even for the duration of an entire breath.

© Rebecca Tantony

With kind permission of the poet