Poetry

Poetry Sunday: “Good Bones,” by Maggie Smith

Good Bones

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.

 

“Good Bones” is from Good Bones, published by Tupelo Press, copyright © 2017 by Maggie Smith. Used with permission of the Press. First published in Waxwing Magazine. Good Bones is available here and here.

 

 

Maggie Smith is the author of Lamp of the Body, The Well Speaks of Its Own Poison, and Good Bones, named by the Washington Post as one of the “five best poetry books of 2017.” The title poem, “Good Bones,” was called the “Official Poem of 2016” by Public Radio International and has been translated into nearly a dozen languages. Smith’s poems have appeared in the New York Times, Tin House, The Believer, The Paris Review, Kenyon Review, Best American Poetry, and on the CBS primetime drama Madam Secretary.

Visit maggiesmithpoet.com or @maggiesmithpoet.

 

Poet’s Note

“Good Bones” was a strange gift. I tend to labor over poems for weeks, months, even years, revising many, many times, working in different documents and comparing versions. But I wrote “Good Bones” in about half an hour in a Starbucks, scrawling it in green ink on a legal pad. I deleted only one word between the first draft and the second (final) draft. The poem has taken on a life of its own since its publication in Waxwing in June 2016, the week of the mass shooting at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida, and MP Jo Cox’s murder in England. But it’s worth mentioning, I think, that I wrote the poem in 2015, and clearly I’d been thinking about what it means to raise children in fraught times: What do we tell them? What do tell ourselves? I continue to grapple with these questions, as a mother and as a poet.

Start the conversation

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.