Drop of water. Free image via Pixabay.
Well Water
Randall Jarell

What a girl called "the dailiness of life"
(Adding an errand to your errand. Saying,
"Since you're up..." Making you a means to
A means to a means to) is well water
Pumped from an old well at the bottom of the world.
The pump you pump the water from is rusty
And hard to move and absurd, a squirrel-wheel
A sick squirrel turns slowly, through the sunny
Inexorable hours. And yet sometimes
The wheel turns of its own weight, the rusty
Pump pumps over your sweating face the clear
Water, cold, so cold! you cup your hands
And gulp from them the dailiness of life.

What do you call the day after an event? There's 'eve' to describe the anticipatory hours of a special occasion, which, to be honest, is often better than the occasion itself. The equivalent word I'm looking for also carries a certain weight, but of the opposite kind, the bittersweet, sometimes disappointed kind.

I'm feeling this after all the Mothers' Day noise of yesterday, and in our household, it also includes a birthday celebration. Naturally I try to look for a 'mother poem' to share. I do have some go-to poems, but I'm tired of them as I've already talked repeatedly about them elsewhere — that means my personal blog and social media.

In my search, I find this Randall Jarrell poem about one of our favorite themes: the quotidian. Actually mother won't be the first subject you'll think of when you read it. I don't even think you'll connect it to any form of familial relationship at first reading. But I like it because, like I said, it's about the everyday. One brilliant moment, a spark of the extraordinary, and then we're back to the ordinary.

Edward Hirch, the editor of the anthology where I have rediscovered this poem, notes the circular motion of the poem. He doesn't expound on it but I can see what he means. From the image of the wheel and the literal turning of the wheel to the repetitiveness of our days. Something about our active participation in a cycle and its unforeseen reward — which, more often than not, is an appreciation of this very cycle. By the way anthology is called Poet's Choice, published in 2006 by Harcourt.

Hirsch also highlights the word dailiness, which I agree is rather interesting. I mean compared to ordinariness or the everyday the over-used quotidian. For me it has a tinge of urgency to it, some value. Because something that has to be done daily has got to to be something important. It may be ordinary, it may be tedious, but it has to earn its space in your day.

The last line talks about taking a gulp from the dailiness of life, which speaks of how rich our routines can be. For me the poets love to take on this job of reminding us of how wonderful the small things are. And if we don’t read poetry, there are the holidays to remind us of these things.

It bears repeating what everyone else says. You don't need a holiday to remind you of what's special. You don't need a holiday to remind you that your mother is a towering figure in your life, wherever they are in the world, and wherever you have placed them in your mind.


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