Three Poems By Maryann Corbett


Scores of spring peepers
swarming over and around
my white tennis shoes

and there’s no way out:
I will murder innocents
when I take a step.
On a white phlox bloom
yellow swallowtails shudder
at some ecstasy,

then in the distance,
keening in the same thin breeze:
tornado sirens.

All the locust trees
spill it today, leafletting
walks with the old news

that the worst happens
and we keep moving. Gutters
gather up the dead.
Looking for 1937

Esteemed Lord Peter, and my dear Miss Marple,
et mon très cher ami Monsieur Poirot,
especially as lately reincarnated 
in the radiant images of the BBC,
thank you for (such as it is) your help
in the hapless search for my parents’ early lives.

Not that you get it right. Wrong side of the ocean,
wrong social class, utterly wrong milieu:
long, sleek Lagondas under covered porticos
loosing their fluttering swarms of white tie, wafts 
of evening dress in bias-cut silk satin;
tea shops and church bells in St. Mary Mead;
Daimler convertibles ah-OOO-gah-ing
down country lanes on the left side of the road
unfailingly arriving at the solution—

Not my solution, no. What you supply me
is color. The color miserably absent 
from my few sepia-tint and black-and-white
leavings, crumbs of their lives between the wars,
portraits in high-contrast rectitude—
formal sittings, weddings and First Communions, 
tight-lipped, not breathing a word that human beings
might have been happy.

                                             But didn’t they live in color?
Colors of rosary processions and pomidori,
card games in shirtsleeves under pergolas.
Those other riches, yours, were their wild dreams,
the Technicolor visions their minds trawled
behind the noir of mobster movies, dodging
hatred aimed like a spray of machine-gun fire
at their immigrant names.

                                            Dear Poirot, Jane, Lord Peter,
help me out here, since all I have is the silence
of two souls who in 1937
are a cold case, an unsolved mystery,
because they have not found each other yet.
And lacking that, the whole plot of the world
loses its way, and the tidy final scene
dissolves to a newsreel grainy with old battles.
Neighbors: A Paradelle

Rose-golden lights of kitchen windows, bedroom windows, across the alley.
Rose-golden lights of kitchen windows, bedroom windows, across the alley
whisper to autumn morning darkness, Never alone. Never alone. 
Whisper to autumn morning darkness, Never alone. Never alone.

     (Never, bedrooms’ rose-golden morning whispers to autumn windows. Never,
     kitchen windows’ lights across the alley. Darkness. Alone. Alone.)

Green back-yard modesties of maple, fallen. A naked clarity. 
Green back-yard modesties of maple fallen, a naked clarity
sighs at our coffee sameness, oh, our shared dishwater lives,
sighs at our coffee sameness, oh, our shared dishwater lives.

     (Oh sameness. Lives of modesties, our green clarity fallen.
     Dishwater coffee. Our shared sigh at naked back-yard maples.)

A guarded glance at most—the cold, the houses closed. The deep cobalt. 
A guarded glance at most. The cold, the houses closed. The deep cobalt
skies waiting for everyone to pluck the frayed thread-end of dreams, 
skies waiting for everyone to pluck the frayed thread-end of dreams.

     (To pluck our glance away—guarded at most, a frayed thread-end. The sky
     a cold cobalt, closed for dreams. The houses deep. Everyone waiting.)

Houses, cobalt and deep green across the alley and back yard
whisper alone, alone, and sigh their guarded windows’ modesties:
Dishwater skies’ frayed thread-ends. Autumn sameness. Lights in kitchens—
Oh fallen, every one. At most, a shared glance at the morning maples.
Our closed, our waiting lives pluck at a never-never clarity. 
Cold coffee, naked darkness. 
                                                (And rose-golden bedroom dreams.)

Maryann Corbett is the author of five books of poetry, most recently In Code from Able Muse Press. Her work has won the Richard Wilbur Book Award and the Willis Barnstone Translation Prize and has been published in venues like Southwest Review, Barrow Street, Rattle, River Styx, Atlanta Review, The Evansville Review, Measure, Literary Imagination, The Dark Horse, Subtropics, Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, American Life in Poetry, The Poetry Foundation, and The Writer’s Almanac, and in an assortment of anthologies including The Best American Poetry 2018.

One comment

  1. All three poems are really interesting. I am particularly impressed with your use of the paradelle. The form enhances the content. Really brings it to life. Thanks for these. Martha Deed aka Sporkworld.


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