The Weekly Verse: Good Bones by Maggie Smith

The Weekly Verse: One poem per week.


Good Bones

By Maggie Smith

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.

This poem went viral a few weeks ago, and I was struck by how relevant it is to the times we’re living in now, when it seems like every day there’s a new story of horror and sadness and human beings hurting one another. I don’t have children, but I’ve often wondered how parents talk to them about these horrible things. Or do they not? “I’m trying / to sell them the world.” We can’t break our children’s hope, their innate belief that the world is safe and good. And I think the poem captures a sense of loneliness that comes with knowing, yet hiding out of love.

“This place could be beautiful, / right? You could make this place beautiful” made me cry the first time I read it. It’s bleak in the context of a realtor walking people through a crappy house, but part of me believes, still, in the face of all this horror, that we could make this often-ugly place more beautiful. The world doesn’t have to be this way. The world has good bones.


Meghan has noticed that many of her favorite things in life start with the letter B - books, blogging, bacon, bitching, and (craft) beer. She lives in Chicago where she indulges regularly in all of these things. Kurt Vonnegut and David Mitchell are her literary baes. Sometimes she tweets random thoughts as @socomeslove.

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