by Maggie Smith

It takes you a minute to see
they are not prints of the same painting
but three panels, subtly different,

ocean waves that could be
storm clouds, just enough abstraction
& movement, the sea’s feral sadness.

It’s wild & doesn’t know
how to settle or trust. Light
sets each sequin individually,

& the waves wait to be chosen
or passed over, lit or left in darkness.
Who can blame the ones that fester?

It has been an eternity,
no end in sight. In all three panels,
you see them pleading—look at me,

choose me—before they fold
in on themselves, throw themselves
blue, green, gray at the shore, before

the slap & sizzle of dissolving,
all foam & gristle. Three portraits
of the sea, like three photographs

snapped seconds apart.
You know grief when you see it.
No two waves break the same.


About the Author:

Maggie Smith is the author of, most recently, Good Bones (Tupelo Press, 2017) and The Well Speaks of Its Own Poison (2015). Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in the New York Times, Ploughshares, Tin House, The Adroit Journal, The Believer, AGNI, The Best American Poetry, and elsewhere. In 2016 her poem “Good Bones” went viral internationally and was called the “Official Poem of 2016” by Public Radio International.