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Let’s Not Begin

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Let’s not begin the poem with and,
though it begins that way

in spirit: one in a long list of—
let’s not call them grievances.

I’m trying to love the world,
I am, but is it too much

to ask for two parts bees
vibrating their cups of pollen,

humming a perfect A note,
to one part sting?

Worry and console, worry
and console: it’s how I stay

in shape. See, I’m sweating.
Some nights my daughter cries,

I don’t want to be in the dirt,
and this is what I call a workout.

My heart’s galloping hell
and gone from the paddock—

I don’t want to be in the dirt
because I’ll miss you—

and there’s no stopping me.
But let’s not end

with the heart as horse,
fear-lathered, spooked deaf.

I’m trying, I am, for her.
If I list everything I love

about the world, and if the list
is long and heavy enough,

I can lift it over and over—
repetitions, they’re called, reps—

to keep my heart on, to keep
the dirt off. Let’s begin

with bees, and the hum,
and the honey singing

on my tongue, and the child
sleeping at last, and, and, and—

G

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Author Image

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 Press 2005), winner of the Benjamin Saltman Award; and three chapbooks, the latest of which is Disasterology (Dream Horse Press 2016). A 2011 National Endowment for the Arts Fellow, Smith has also received fellowships from the Ohio Arts Council, the Sustainable Arts Foundation, and elsewhere. She is a freelance writer and editor, and a Contributing Editor to the Kenyon Review.

Feature image by Claude Cahun. I Extend My Arms, 1931 or 1932. Gelatin silver print, 210 x 156 mm. © The estate of Claude Cahun. From the collection of the Tate Modern.

Click on the image to enlarge.

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