Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood

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Tonight when I run a late bath
I absentmindedly suction down
the padded mat and toss in a handful
of my daughter’s toys: plastic Ernie
and his red sailboat, squirting fish,
the sieve-like cup that makes it rain.
I read this week that in Rome
the city council banned curved bowls
for goldfish. It’s considered cruelty:
forcing “a distorted view of reality.”
Any view of the world
is warped by something. Bowl or tank,
the ribbon of bubbles rises endlessly
from the diver’s mask. The shipwreck
settled into gravel is never recovered,
the stories of its lost crew never told.
Tonight at least the bath steams,
too hot for anyone in the house
but me. I reach in, tug up the mat,
lay it aside to dry. I fish out Ernie,
his boat, the tiny blue plastic sail
that always comes loose and squeeze
each fish until it stops spitting suds.
I ease into the scalding water, my reflection
in the faucet handle’s round mirror
stretched but not beyond recognition.

Maggie Smith is the author of Lamp of the Body, Nesting Dolls, and The List of Dangers. Her poems have appeared in The Southern Review, The Paris Review, The Iowa Review, and elsewhere. The recipient of fellowships from the NEA, the Ohio Arts Council, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Smith lives in Bexley, Ohio, with her husband, four-year-old daughter, and infant son. You can find her online at

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