Another trick spring, another month of mothering
the neighbor’s dumb magnolias from my window.
Another March spent warning, willing their velvet purses
shut with only my mind, because I don’t speak
their language, and because they are not mine
to mother. I have no trees, not even a houseplant,
of my own. The first thing I kept alive was a child.
Talk about a high-stakes dry run. Today that child
is at school, and I am chiding the neighbor’s twin
magnolias with my eyes—don’t open, remember, this spring
isn’t spring at all. But every year their pink tongues
lap snow, lick the thin, cold air. These trees
have seen my son, head back, mouth open,
doing just that. The sun is shining, its warmth
through glass a kind of lie, and I am practicing
telepathy with trees who can’t hear me, again,
or they can, but I’m too late: a handful of soft gray
clutches are unclasped on the lawn, empty.
I’m a Monster
in the lake’s murky mirror,
skin wavering green,
wrinkled by wind.
My eyes, blurring
in their sockets,
are still my father’s.
My mouth, my mother’s.
What parts of me are not
borrowed, pieced together
from other bodies?
Even this poor reflection
is proof I was cut
from a body, born
an animal. Proof I am
never without the ones
who made me.
I dip a stick in the lake
and stir my face away.
After the Second Miscarriage, My Daughter Teaches Me about Eggs
Ladybug, lemon yellow,
the size of the period
at the end of this sentence.
Moth, lime jellybeans.
Butterfly, pearls inlaid
on a leaf’s veiny back.
Spider, silk purses
slung under the basement stairs.
Flying fish, drops of blood.
Wood frog, blue eyes,
pupils dilated in the dark.
Turtle, white leather.
Black pine snake, marbled
white stones, the kind
you pocket and rub.
Ostrich, thick as a nickel.
Emu, fifty-carat emeralds
buffed smooth, facetless.
Duck, palest green,
as if white had tinted itself
with the faint memory of a lake.
A Cloud in Each Field
I found my daughter at the table, cutting square clouds
from a shirt box, gluing them in a neat white grid
to scribbled-blue paper. A day had never looked so
orderly. She colored the sun a quarter each yellow,
orange, red, black. Later I caught her inspecting
the scene for flaws, using a dollar-bin kaleidoscope
as a jeweler’s eye. When she finished, she handed me
the paper, called it her sky contraption. My daughter
invented it herself, or as she says, guessed it up.
And I—or my body in its genius—guessed her up,
the girl whose sun is a quarter black, whose sky
is a kind of spreadsheet, a cloud in each field, value
undetermined. She autosums the clouds until
the formula should fall apart, but it doesn’t.
I’m beginning to suspect this life
is a study for another one,
research for a larger project
still taking shape. I don’t mean
heaven, no. If these days
are notes that will serve me later,
I’m taking copious notes.
If this world is not the real world—
I mean, not the final version—
will the real world at least
resemble this draft? I’m beginning
to suspect this life is practice,
and what of these practice
children—are they mine
to keep? What can I carry
forward except these reminders?
Each day is a note I jot down
under the day before.
I’m Reconsidering Burial
because if I were lying
in that narrow twin bed
under the sod, you might be
tempted to lie down there
at night, the stone a cold
headboard, and look up
at the sky—moon, stars,
wisps of cloud, etcetera—
and feel you are falling
asleep on the top bunk
and I am still tucked in
below you, telling you
my secrets in the dark.
Maggie Smith is the author of Weep Up (Tupelo Press, September 2017); The Well Speaks of Its Own Poison; Lamp of the Body; and three prizewinning chapbooks. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Best American Poetry 2017, Paris Review, Ploughshares, Kenyon Review, Southern Review, and elsewhere. In 2016 her poem “Good Bones” went viral internationally and has been translated into nearly a dozen languages. The recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Ohio Arts Council, and the Sustainable Arts Foundation, Smith is a freelance writer and editor.