Even if you are not a poetry person, there is a strong chance you have read the title poem in Maggie Smith’s Good Bones. Why? Because, I regret to say, it gets passed around every time there’s a notable school shooting. And that is often. It’s the one that goes:
Life is short, 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.
Well, not to get too personal here, but I was having what I’ll call a real 2022 kind of a week (everyone nods angrily) and I decided to hunt down some more work from this poet lady who seems to both understand the feeling of AAGGGHHHHHHHHH and still have optimism to offer.
I don’t read much poetry, but I’m glad I read this. There are a handful of pieces other than “Good Bones” itself that did achieve that emotional punch in the gut, or a thought-provoking image. There’s a running image of a hawk hovering over a girl that I didn’t really glom onto, and I felt I was missing an emotional connection there that others might feel if it resonated for them.So I did find these little pinpricks of beauty, and I’m glad I found them.
But I’d say the only other work that really gave that specific heartening pull I was originally looking for was the last in the collection, “Rain, New Year’s Eve“:
Let me love the cold rain’s plinking.
Let me love the world the way I love
my young son, not only when
he cups my face in his sticky hands,
but when, roughhousing,
he accidentally splits my lip.
Let me love the world like a mother.
Let me be tender when it lets me down.
Let me listen to the rain’s one note
and hear a beginner’s song.
This collection didn’t magically transform me into a poetry person, but I do know now one place to find a dose of beauty when things are … you know, not going great. That shouldn’t come up again for at least another week, right?