The first month of the year is almost over. For the last three Poetry Fridays, I have shared poems by Ohio poet, Maggie Smith, from her poetry collection, Good Bones. Today, I’m featuring two poems—one is an excerpt, the other full. In reading these poems, I imagined Smith’s children asking her the questions: What is the past? What is the future? Her answers could not have been more brilliant and beautiful.
Poetry Friday round-up is hosted by Tara at Going to Walden!
What is the past?
We needed a word for everything before.
The past is not all distant. We can stand at its edge,
watching the waves do the backbreaking work
of pulling, pulling away. From the shore, the past
seems to go on forever, because it does. We say
it was a different time, but all times are different.
This one, for instance. And again, this one.
What is the future?
Everything that hasn’t happened yet, the future
is tomorrow and next year and when you’re old
but also in a minute or two, when I’m through
answering. The future is nothing I imagined
as a child: no jet packs, no conveyor-belt sidewalks,
no bell-jarred cities at the bottom of the sea.
The trick of the future is that it’s empty,
a cup before you pour the water. The future
is a waiting cup, and for all it knows, you’ll fill it
with milk instead. You’re thirsty. Every minute
carries you forward, conveys you, into a space
you fill. I mean the future will be full of you.
It’s one step beyond the step you’re taking now.
What you’ll say next until you say it.