Poem of the Week, by Maggie Smith

The photo on the right is one of a bunch of family photos in my living room. Is that your daughter? people sometimes ask, and I smile. She does look like me, doesn’t she? I say.

But the girl on the windsurfer is me, long ago, back in a life I used to live: a tiny one-room apartment, coffee from the miniature percolator my grandmother gave me, a rented electric typewriter perched on an apple crate, the camping pad I slept on because the room was too small for a bed. Annie Lennox singing about how sweet dreams are made of these.

I remember the day that photo was taken. Trying not to fall so my hair would stay dry. Trying to lean back far enough for that perfect balance between my body and the wind’s invisible force.

I tried hard back then, and I try hard now. Nothing was perfect then. Nothing is perfect now. Are that girl and I still, somehow, on both sides of here and there?

Threshold, by Maggie Smith

You want a door you can be
            on both sides of at once

                        You want to be
            on both sides of here

and there, now and then,
            together and—what

                        do we call the life
            we would wish back,

If we could? The before?)
            —alone. But any open

                        space may be
            a threshold, an arch

of entering and leaving.
            Crossing a field, wading

                        through nothing
            but timothy grass,

imagine yourself passing from
            and into. Passing through

                        doorway after
            doorway after doorway.

Friends! Please join the wondrous Maggie Smith and me in a virtual conversation this Monday evening, August 2, at 7 pm CST. We’ll be discussing her gorgeous new book Goldenrod, in which I found this beautiful poem. Free and open to all. Just click here to register.

For more information on Maggie Smith, please check out her website.

My poems podcast, Words by Wintercan be found here.


Poem of the Week, by Maggie Smith

IMG_4264Would your life be worse then than it is right now? is a question to ask yourself when you wake up every day in fear and dread of something that hasn’t happened but might happen. Something you fight and fight and work and work to prevent happening, to you or to someone you love. Foreclosure. Suicide. Recurrence of cancer. Loss of a job, a friend, a romance.

At some point the panic might be so huge that it takes over your life, and what then? Then a balance has been achieved. The thing you so fear has, in the fearing of it, destroyed your peace, your health, your daily existence. So. If the thing you fear actually happened, would your life be worse than it is right now? 

Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe something else would rush in once the anticipatory dread and panic are finally gone, something huge and unfamiliar: relief. This poem brought so many feelings flooding through me.


At the End of My Marriage, I Think of Something My Daughter Said about Trees, by Maggie Smith 

When a tree is cut down, the sky’s like 
finally, and rushes in. 

Even when you trim a tree, 
the sky fills in before the branch 

hits the ground. It colors the space blue 
because now it can.





For more information about Maggie Smith, please check out her website.


My websiteMy blogMy Facebook page

Twitter and Instagram: @alisonmcgheewriter 

Poem of the Week, by Maggie Smith

IMG_4760After a reading from my new novel Never Coming Back the other night, I spoke with a woman in the audience about synesthesia, that syndrome whereby senses cross and fuse with each other. “So as someone is talking, you don’t simultaneously see the words they’re saying inside your head?” I asked the woman, and she shook her head.

 “Then how do you understand them?” I asked her. “Is it just. . . sound? Sound that makes sense in your ears and translates itself into meaning?” She nodded. 

Everything I say, and everything others say to me, transcribes itself instantly into words that run across the bottom of the movie screen in my mind. I can’t imagine how I would ever understand language otherwise, and the woman I was talking with couldn’t imagine how this happens for me. Our conversation reminded me of this poem by Maggie Smith, a poem that stays with me for many reasons: because I love flowers and their names, because I also love my children who can’t ever remember the names of the flowers I’ve grown in our garden their whole lives long, and because, in the end, I guess it’s the sight of them both that matters, and not the names we give them.


Goldenrod, by Maggie Smith 

I’m no botanist. If you’re the color of sulfur
and growing at the roadside, you’re goldenrod.

You don’t care what I call you, whatever
you were born as. You don’t know your own name.

But driving near Peoria, the sky pink-orange,
the sun bobbing at the horizon, I see everything

is what it is, exactly, in spite of the words I use:
black cows, barns falling in on themselves, you.

Dear flowers born with a highway view,
forgive me if I’ve mistaken you. Goldenrod,

whatever your name is, you are with your own kind.
Look—the meadow is a mirror, full of you,

your reflection repeating. Whatever you are,
I see you, wild yellow, and I would let you name me.


​For more information on Maggie Smith, please click here​.