American Life in Poetry: Column 099
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE
My maternal grandparents got their drinking water from a well in the yard, and my disabled uncle carried it sloshing to the house, one bucket of hard red water early every morning. I couldn’t resist sharing this lovely little poem by Minnesota poet, Sharon Chmielarz.
All those years—almost a hundred—
the farm had hard water.
Hard orange. Buckets lined in orange.
Sink and tub and toilet, too,
once they got running water.
And now, in less than a lifetime,
just by changing the well’s location,
in the same yard, mind you,
the water’s soft, clear, delicious to drink.
All those years to shake your head over.
Look how sweet life has become;
you can see it in the couple who live here,
their calmness as they sit at their table,
the beauty as they offer you new water to drink.
We do not accept unsolicited submissions. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Reprinted by permission of Sharon Chmielarz, whose most recent collection of poems is The Rhubarb King, Loonfeather Press, 2006. Copyright © 2006 by Sharon Chmielarz. Introduction copyright © 2020 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.