Maggie Smith

Sitting on an Old Bedspread Under an Oak Tree, Watching My Son’s Soccer Practice
June 24, 2022 Smith Maggie

Sitting on an Old Bedspread Under an Oak Tree,
Watching My Son’s Soccer Practice


by Maggie Smith


For reasons I can’t explain
—that’s what therapy is for—


I can be doing anything, anywhere,
and my mind slips away
without warning, an Irish exit,


and enters the dark room again.
Cross-legged in a lattice


of shade and sun, bits of acorn
in my hair from the squirrels overhead,
I’m watching my son in goal,


but my mind, in the dark, is busy
guessing the story his father tells


about our marriage. My money’s on
the one that goes, She didn’t love me enough.
But didn’t I? In the field the boys


are scrimmaging now, calling out
to each other—Here! I’m open!


And wasn’t I? Among the sentences
I sent him at the end are these,
and what a handsome pair they make:


Have some compassion.
This is not how you leave a person.


I’ll see what my therapist can do
with this couple in our next hour
together. When I say it now, it sounds


like an offering: Have some compassion.
Like, have some cake or have a seat.


All of these things can be refused.
My story goes something like this:
I loved him plenty. I loved


how life had stretched around us,
and how I knew it by its shape.


Now my son gives me a thumbs up,
a smile. Do I look whole to him,
or can he tell my mind has wandered off


in darkness? I call it back.
I know: I needed to love myself


more than I feared what that love
would do to me. What it might
require of me. What, in the end, it did.

Maggie Smith is the author of six books of poems and prose, including Goldenrod, Good Bones, and Keep Moving. Her poems and essays have appeared in the New York Times, The New Yorker, The Southern Review, the Guardian, the Paris Review, the Washington Post, and The Best American Poetry.