Apologue (1)

Maggie Smith

En la tierra del olvido, donde de nada nadie se acuerda…

In the land where all is forgotten, where no one remembers anything,
birds cut off their beaks to share your sorrow, Little Torn Shoe.
Twice of half a moon throbbed, swollen. I don’t know what
you mourned. This tale was lost among the chestnut trees,
where I found it and brought it to you. Little Bird of Many Colors,
you are the kind who confuses wondering with wandering.
You wonder around. Under your braids, a bright light.
Little Pink Apple, life does not taste as good as it should.
After all, there is always something better. We choose the best
of what is before us, but much is not before us. In the story,
a boy chose the horse called Thought over the one called Wind.
Thinking swiftly, he rode to you. His sack of apples turned
to a sack of rats; his sack of pears to parrots repeating
happy, happy, happy . . . Little Gold Pin, many things we tell
our children are kind but not true. The reverse is also true.
You were crying in the chestnut trees. There was no telling
the leaves from the leaf-shaped spaces between them.
I don’t know what you mourned, Little Winter Deer, the birds
mute and bleeding all around you. I know you want to forget
that last part. And here a cup got broken. Everyone should now go home.

More by Maggie Smith

Perennials

Let us praise the ghost gardens
of Gary, Detroit, Toledo—abandoned

lots where perennials wake
in competent dirt and frame the absence

of a house. You can hear
the sound of wind, which isn’t

wind at all, but leaves touching.
Wind itself can’t speak. It needs another

to chime against, knock around.
Again and again the wind finds its tongue,

but its tongue lives outside
of its rusted mouth. Forget the wind.

Let us instead praise meadow and ruin,
weeds and wildflowers seeding

years later. Let us praise the girl
who lives in what they call

a transitional neighborhood—
another way of saying not dead?

Or risen from it? Before running
full speed through the sprinkler’s arc,

she tells her mother, who kneels
in the garden: Pretend I’m racing

someone else. Pretend I’m winning.

Good Bones

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.

Where Honey Comes From

When my daughter drizzles gold
on her breakfast toast, I remind her

she’s seen the bee men in our tree,
casting smoke like a spell until

the swarm thrums itself to sleep.
She’s seen them wipe the air clean

with smoke, the way a hand smudges
chalk from a slate, erasing danger

written there, as if smoke revises
the story of the air until each page

reads never fear, never fear. Honey
is in the hive, forbidden lantern

lit on the inside, where it must be dark,
where it must always be. Honey

is sweetness and fear. I think
the bees have learned to embroider,

to stitch the sky with warnings
untouched by smoke. Buzzing

is the sound of bees perforating the air,
as if pulling thread through over

and over, though the thread too is air.