“La Mer,” oil on canvas, by Gustave Courbet, 1872.

by Maggie Smith

The sky shakes us
like a shoe with a stone inside.

Even the smallest stone hurts.
In the white rumble of clouds

the flight crew plays the wrong
recording: Ladies and gentlemen,

we will be departing soon.
Years ago I would have

taken that as a sign. But today
I forgive the voice, forgive

the air. The sky ombres
from sunset—whole rainbow

at the horizon, even green—
to black in minutes,

my reflection a silhouette
of light in the dark window.

I try not to think too much
about the physics:

whether we are the shoe
or the stone shaken from it.

Somewhere a boy looks up
and says airplane, seeing us now.

Forgive his mother, the mother
I’ve been on the ground

and will be again, her inadequate
explanation of lift and thrust

and gravity—what keeps us
in the sky, how we got there,

how we’ll come down.

omega man

Maggie Smith’s most recent collections are Good Bones, forthcoming in fall 2017 from Tupelo Press, and The Well Speaks of Its Own Poison, winner of the Dorset Prize. Her poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in The New York Times, The Best American Poetry 2017, American Poetry Review, Ploughshares, AGNI, and elsewhere. The recipient of fellowships from the NEA, the Ohio Arts Council, and the Sustainable Arts Foundation, Smith lives and writes in Ohio.

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