“Life is short, though I keep this from my children.”
– Maggie Smith
Maggie Smith’s poem Good Bones went viral in 2016. ‘Life is short,’ she begins, ‘though I keep this from my children.’ It’s a sentiment that embodies so much of the concerns and anxieties of parenting; a sober outlook on the world that concedes ‘for every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird’ and that the world is ‘at least half terrible.’ Here she acknowledges that the task of raising children so often feels like the challenge of simply landing one’s children in the right half, and that in spite of ourselves we do lean in towards optimism, that there is always the hope on a back-burner somewhere that this world at its core has good bones: ‘You could make this place beautiful.’
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.
From – Good Bones: Poems