Three poems by American poet Maggie Smith, from the book Good Bones (2017):
Life is short, though I keep this from my children.
Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative
estimate, though I keep this from my children.
For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.
For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,
sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children. I am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful.
At your age I wore a darkness
several sizes too big. It hung on me
like a mother’s dress. Even now,
as we speak, I am stitching
a darkness you’ll need to unravel,
unraveling another you’ll need
to restitch. What can I give you
that you can keep? Once you asked,
Does the sky stop? It doesn’t stop,
it just stops being one thing
and starts being another.
Sometimes we hold hands
and tip our heads way back
so the blue fills our whole field
of vision, so we feel like
we’re in it. We don’t stop,
we just stop being what we are
and start being what?
Where? What can I give you
to carry there? These shadows
of leaves—the lace in solace?
This soft, hand-me-down
darkness? What can I give you
that will be of use in your next life,
the one you will live without me?
A child of, say, six knows you’re not the shape
she’s learned to make by drawing half along a fold,
cutting, then opening. Where do you open?
Where do you carry your dead? There’s no locket
for that—hinged, hanging on a chain that greens
your throat. And the dead inside you, don’t you
hear them breathing? You must have a hole
they can press their gray lips to. If you open—
when you open—will we find them folded inside?
In what shape? I mean what cut shape is made
whole by opening? I mean besides the heart.
About the book
- Tupelo Press, 2017, 99 p. Goodreads
- My rating: 5 stars