Last summer I bought a broadside from TUPELO PRESS of Maggie Smith’s poem “Good Bones" (which went viral after the Orlando shootings). This week the poem has gone viral for a second time.
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.
There are so many posts and essays on social media right now by parents agonizing over what to tell their children. I cried while I watched footage of anti-Trump walkouts at Berkeley High and Bishop O’Dowd (where my son Ben went to high school) and high schools across the nation. What kind of world are we giving those students?
According to Bloomberg’s figures, “Had only millennials voted, Clinton would've won the election in a landslide, with 473 electoral votes to Trump's 32." Maybe there’s hope for the future there, but their world is about to change utterly, and it may take decades to undo the damage. Damage to the environment may never be undone. How could the United States do this? How could we let it happen? "The world / is at least half terrible," and it's going to get much much worse.
Note: "Good Bones,” first published in Waxwing, will be included in Weep Up, Tupelo Press, forthcoming 2018. The broadside, printed by Josef Beery, is available on their website (link above). See THE ATLANTIC for other poems that have gone viral after the election.