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Poetry Friday: Back To School

This week’s Poetry Friday segment taps into the choices families are faced with as the school year starts. KNAU listener Amber Meyer’s kids will resume online classes next week after abruptly finishing last semester online, as well. Today, Amber shares the raw, heartfelt truth about what it’s been like for her family during the pandemic…sometimes messy and difficult, sometimes joyous and beautiful. Here, she reads Maggie Smith’s poem Good Bones and offers support to everyone, everywhere sending children ‘back’ to school in one way or another.

AM: We did not do very well with the online learning in the spring. We just had a hard time trying to keep up. So, we pretty much just threw in the towel and spent our days outside which was great. I stopped working so I could be home with them all the time, and there are so many things I love about that.

I feel happy that I get to be with them more. That part makes me happy, but I’m sad for them. I want them to have a school experience and I’m sad. But I’m trying to kind of hide that for the most part and just be positive about it and be positive about what it can look like for us.

I will say there’s a lot of times where I feel really happy because we’re lucky. We have a big back yard, we live in a town where we can go hiking all the time, and I feel tremendously lucky. You know, I start thinking about the parents that have kids with special needs that aren’t going to have respite, and I start thinking about people that don’t even have WiFi. So, I know that we’re lucky, I feel grateful for that, I recognize it, and I feel happy. But, then the other part of the day I feel really sad. I’m sad for what my kids’ future is going to look like, I’m sad for the struggle I know we’re going to face as we start the online school thing, I know it’s going to be hard and I know I’m going to get stressed out and yell at them when they don’t deserve it. I just want to do the best I can, and sometimes the best I can is just awful.

Credit KNAU/Gillian Ferris
Amber Meyer with her kids Anya, 10, and Ivan, 6

Someone just shared this poem with me. It’s called Good Bones by Maggie Smith. I had never read it before, but it resonates.

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, though I keep this from my children.

For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.

For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,

sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world

is at least half terrible, and for every kind

stranger, there is one who would break you,

though I keep this from my children. I am trying

to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,

walking you through a real shithole, chirps on

about good bones: This place could be beautiful,

right? You could make this place beautiful.

(Music: Home Again, Michael Kiwanuka)

Poetry Friday is produced by KNAU's Gillian Ferris. If you have an idea for a segment, drop her an email inquiry at