Every Day I Promise Myself, Rachel Davies
4Word, 2020 £5.99
Every Day I Promise Myself is an inventive exploration of mother-daughter relationships. The sequence about alternative mothers particularly intrigues me — given that my own life was shaped by my mother’s widowhood.
Rachel Davies speculates on ‘what-ifs’. What would it have been like to have had a mother who wasn’t unconditional in her love? What if she was self-centred, or preferred another of her children? What if she lacked wisdom, suffered addiction or persecution?
‘Alternative Mother #1’ explores Naamah’s relationship with her husband Noah as they build the Ark. He is dismissive of her contribution. She silently recounts that significant contribution:
he says you need to says why don’t you
says if you did it like this says it’ll never
says more tar more tar says what’s for tea
Naamah is referred to as ‘you’, as are many of these potential mothers.
you build steps a ramp channel your inner
farmhand herd the animals in pairs
We’re intimately engaged. We’re one with her unappreciated industry, her invisibility. I imagine she was an exhausted, steadfast mother without status. Perhaps she’d teach her own daughter(s) to find a voice?
Eleven diverse poems follow in this vein. ‘Alternative Mother #3 Mary B’ conjures an alcoholic neglectful mother; ‘#4 Jean’, a benevolent, warm and nurturing persona; ‘#7 Cynthia’, a remote, desperate, unavailable parent; and ‘#11 Alice’, a Wonderland character who ‘keeps disappearing’ — finally into the ‘acrid stench of the grave’.
Davies’s pamphlet deftly balances deep emotion with dry humour. Each potential mother is well crafted, inviting a connection with the reader. After all, everyone has a mother of some kind for good or ill.