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.
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.