I Am Trying to Break Your Heart

 

 

Say this is a film: the camera pans

to the porch ghosts, to the skeletons clacking

their plastic bones in the wind, to the workers

in the cherry picker because there is so much

regular life still happening.

             It pans to the hawk

tying its tailwind in knots above Licking Memorial

Hospital, only two and a half Yelp stars,

where no one imagines himself

                   leaving the world.

It pans to the parking lot and the woman

walking gingerly in the crosswalk, her white hair

practically floating, and the song playing

is this one.

         Say this is a film: I’m going to see

my mother’s father in the hospice ward,

sixth floor, top floor, where people go to die—

the phrase I think of, pressing the button

for six. Where he goes to die.

                This film

is true to life: he’s half a man. Legs long

gone. The camera pans to my mother

at his bedside, to my mother’s hands

holding his hands in his lap,

                but there’s no lap.

Then it pans to his slack jaw, his ragged

breathing. Then to the window and out,

out to October trees on fire, to houses

and their ghosts—polyester ghosts with no

haunt in them, the ones I don’t believe in.

 

 

Maggie Smith is the author of The Well Speaks of Its Own Poison (Tupelo Press 2015), winner of the Dorset Prize; Lamp of the Body (Red Hen 2005), winner of the Benjamin Saltman Award; and three chapbooks, including Disasterology (Dream Horse Press, forthcoming). She has received fellowships from the Ohio Arts Council, the Sustainable Arts Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2015 she joined the Kenyon Review as a Contributing Editor, and she is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor in Creative Writing at The Ohio State University.

 

Next Poem

Back to Table of Contents