Owen Sheers

Coming Home by Owen Sheers

‘Coming Home’ by Owen Sheers is a thoughtful poem that describes the transitory nature of life. The poet explores aging, family, and the impact of change.

Sheers does not use any rhyme scheme, he does, however, use the poetic devices of enjambment and imagery to describe the graceful way in which his family has aged. ‘Coming Home’ carries a very nostalgic mood and throughout the three stanzas, Sheers describes in detail the changes that occur due to the passing of time. The poem is very intimate and personal, allowing the reader to truly feel the effects that time has on people and family dynamics. The poem is written in the first person and the voice is ambiguous. However, we can assume that Sheer has written about his own family in this poem, and therefore it is from his perspective.

Coming Home by Owen Sheers

Analysis of Coming Home

First Stanza

My mother’s hug is awkward,
As if the space between her open arms
The flour makes her over, dusting
The hairs on her cheek, smoothing out wrinkles.

In the first stanza, Sheers describes a scene in which he has returned home after some time has passed. He focuses the whole stanza on describing his mother and how time has caused her to age. Sheers artistically states that he feels his mother’s hug is awkward because the last time he had been home he was much smaller, it is as if they are both still mentally living in the past. The mentioning of feeling awkward hugging his mom also shows another face of family life which is the undergoing of different emotions and feelings with one another as time passes. When Sheers was a child, his mother’s hug must have been the best and most secure feeling for him, as it is for most children. As Sheers has grown older, this feeling has clearly changed, especially because it appears that he is coming back to see his family after some time has passed. It appears that Sheers is standing and observing his mother, remembering the times that she used to be young, and he is even being surprised at how much she has aged. Interestingly, Sheers notices the changes in her physical appearance but he notes that she is still doing what she has always done, making the dough in the kitchen. The fact that Sheers describes the method in which his mom flips the dough so casually, through Imagery, shows that he has seen her do it often. This contrasts strongly with the way he observes the new changes in her physical appearance and finds them as something new.

Second Stanza

Dad still goes and soaks himself in the rain.
Up to his elbows in hedge, he works
When he comes in again his hair is wild,
and his pockets are filled with filings of hay.

The second stanza of ‘Coming Home’ focuses on the changes that Sheers (or the ambiguous voice) notices in his father upon his return from his trip. Sheers notices that his father still has the same habits as before, just as his mother did. However, there is a difference in his tidiness. Sheers uses Imagery to describe the mundane way in which his father goes about his chores as if he has seen his dad do it hundreds of times.

Up to his elbows in hedge, he works
on a hole that reappears every Winter,
its edges laced with wet wool –

Sheers uses Enjambment here to put emphasis on each action that his father is doing, yet letting the actions flow into one idea at the same time.

When his dad comes in from his regular yard work it becomes obvious to Sheers that his dad has aged somewhat because the effort of working outside has caused his hair to become disheveled and his clothes to be untidy. Sheers also reveals in this stanza that the season is winter. The winter season can be a symbol of a calm sadness that echoes nostalgia. The silence of the great outdoors during winter is a symbol of contemplation, and that is exactly what sheers is doing in this poem. Contemplating how everything changes over time yet stays the same as well.

Third Stanza

All seated, my grandfather pours the wine.
it is a tune he plays faster each year.

The third and final stanza discusses his grandfather pouring out wine for everyone, and his hands tremble as he does so, naturally because of his old age. ‘It is a tune he plays faster each year’, shows us that his grandfather’s trembling, perhaps Alzheimer’s gets worse as the years pass and his age progresses. The fact that his grandfather is pouring wine is symbolic as wine is a way of enjoying life. Sheers is showing us that despite everyone aging so much they continue to enjoy life and that may be the message of ‘Coming Home’. Enjoy life while you can, because it is flying by.

His unsteady hand makes the neck of the bottle
shiver on the lip of each glass;
it is a tune he plays faster each year.

Sheers puts emphasis on ‘shiver on the lip of each glass’ by the way the poem is formatted. This action of his grandfather pouring out wine in each of their glasses could hold a deeper meaning. His grandfather, who is the oldest and has experienced the most changes in his life is reminding each of them to live their life to the fullest. Letting the bottle shiver over the lip of each glass shows that he is urging them all to not waste their time and to enjoy what they have. The fact that he plays this tune faster every year supports this interpretation, for he must become more urgent in his warning every year as everyone is growing older.

‘Coming Home’ by Owen Sheers is a Nostalgic poem that encourages enjoying life because it is passing by in front of our eyes. Sheers uses Enjambment, Imagery, and Symbolism to explain how life is transitory, and as we age several things will change in our life, but several things will also stay the same.


‘Coming Home’ by Owen Sheers is a three-stanza poem that is written in free verse. It is interesting to note that of the three stanzas, the first two, which describe his parents, are longer as compared to the third stanza which discusses his grandfather. This could be because the mother and father are his immediate family whereas his grandfather is part of his extended family. The difference in length may also be a symbolic way of representing that his parents had more life left in them than his aging grandfather. Also, the first two stanzas seem to contrast each other. His mother is shown as calm and loving in her support, while his father shows the tough side of love that can be seen in families. The tone of the poem is calm and contemplative, which makes sense as the major themes of the poem are aging, family life, and the passage of time.

About Owen Sheers

Owen Sheers was raised in South Wales and is an acclaimed poet, writer, and novelist. His works focus on belonging, home, and self-identity. Sheer’s poems often use his own personality, experiences, and life lessons. Sheer’s first novel received a 2008 Hospital club creative Book Award. Sheers has received many awards in his lifetime, his most recent ones being: The 2013 Hay Medal for Poetry, The 2014 Wales Book of the Year, and The 2015 BAFTA Best Presenter. Sheers also played in the Rugby Union in the Scrum-half position, and is an actor. He has played the role of Wilfred Owen for BBC Wales.

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Maha Rehman Poetry Expert
Maha has a BSc Honors from the University of Toronto and is an Author and Writer by profession. She loves writing and genuinely idealizes the idea of science and literary art combining together into a liberating force of intellectual enlightenment. You can check out her YA novel 'Sole Silence'.
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