The Weekly Verse: Good Bones by Maggie Smith
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.