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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, June 8, 2018.
About this Poem 

"I was reading Szymborska when I came across this line: 'Why does this written doe bound through these written woods?' The question made me want to push further into the setting—the written woods—and to consider what it means to both create and experience (or write and read) a place. I draft all of my poems longhand, often writing very quickly, and in my messy half-print, half-cursive handwriting, world and word were almost indistinguishable. As the poem came into focus, this conflation made its way into the poem’s argument."
—Maggie Smith

Written Deer

           Why does this written doe bound through these written woods?
                            —Wisława Szymborska

My handwriting is all over these woods. 
No, my handwriting is these woods, 

each tree a half-print, half-cursive scrawl, 
each loop a limb. My house is somewhere 
here, & I have scribbled myself inside it. 

What is home but a book we write, then 
read again & again, each time dog-earing 

different pages. In the morning I wake 
in time to pencil the sun high. How 
fragile it is, the world—I almost wrote 

the word but caught myself. Either one 
could be erased. In these written woods, 

branches smudge around me whenever 
I take a deep breath. Still, written fawns 
lie in the written sunlight that dapples 

their backs. What is home but a passage
I’m writing & underlining every time I read it.

Copyright © 2018 by Maggie Smith. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 8, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2018 by Maggie Smith. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 8, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Maggie Smith

Maggie Smith

Maggie Smith is the author of Good Bones (Tupelo Press, 2017), The Well Speaks of Its Own Poison (Tupelo Press, 2015), and Lamp of the Body (Red Hen Press, 2005). 

by this poet

poem

Life is short, though I keep this from my children.
Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative
estimate,

poem

The heat rises in distorted gold
              waves around fire
                            but without fire,
              shimmering, twisting

anything seen through it.
              The heat rises, rasping
                            the air it rises through,
             

2
poem
Let us praise the ghost gardens
of Gary, Detroit, Toledo—abandoned

lots where perennials wake
in competent dirt and frame the absence

of a house. You can hear
the sound of wind, which isn’t

wind at all, but leaves touching.
Wind itself can’t speak. It needs another

to chime against, knock around.
Again and