Good Bones by Maggie Smith
MARGINALIA • SKIP TO THE POEM
I don’t know anymore, I wrote the other night, talking to no one in particular. I just want to survive. I want to be safe. I want my loved ones not to die. I want my grief to have an end. I want to open my eyes every morning saying it’s going to be a good day, instead of not today not today not today.
Here are some terrible things: checking my mailbox after I haven’t gone outside for days and finding long-overdue bills, rocky road ice cream that tastes like freezer burn, getting in an accident at two in the morning and dislocating your shoulder, that shoulder still hurting many years later when it’s about to rain. Someone you know skipping ahead of the line to get the vaccine. Fifteen thousand new cases in a day of people getting sick. Knowing it will be like this for awhile. Not knowing if you’ll live to see the end of it.
How are you, friends ask. I’m okay, I say. I’m writing. Trying to rebuild. Trying to clean my apartment. Listening to music. Making tea. Looking at the moon. Mooning over someone. I don’t say: I have trouble sleeping. That I am having nightmares. That I wake up teeth chattering feeling cold to the bone even if it’s summer. That I want to be held.
How can I want anything else?
What I keep from the people I love: that I am fighting with myself not to start mourning for things I have yet to lose.
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.
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This poem appeared in Good Bones by Maggie Smith, published by Tupelo Press, 2017. Shared here with profound gratitude.
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Button Poetry video of “Good Bones” https://youtu.be/R3dlJRJp9Jw
This sentimentally hits way way way too close to (my) home. Thank you for sharing.
Gah, those last lines, a hope, a plea. “This place could be beautiful, right? You could make this place beautiful,”
I wish I could hold you in friendship and love. I have only words to offer for a stranger on the internet whose posts have saved me time and again. I am sending love and warmth. Here is to holding on to hope.