~This poem was previously published in Ruminate (2010).
Late Season Day Trip
Because it could only happen in summer, because
an early start was vital, because we'd run
outside in the grass by the driveway, our sneakers wet,
the air still cool, so early the light went sideways,
because it changed things, because we would be saved
by water from our humid suburban sins,
because we'd begin by driving into the sun,
in oriente, compass point of the pilgrim,
past New Life Church and Transformation Salon
and PMZ Plasma Services, where debt
is washed away in blood, because of hope,
because each year we forgot the hard returning
until it came, the late-night driving back
on the black, unbending highways, the cranky children,
forgot the trash on the seats, forgot the way
we steeled ourselves for the dark and the year's forgetting,
all this is why I can bear to stand on a corner
a thousand miles from the shore, in a second-hand suit,
and wait alone for a bus that will take me to work,
watching others leave at the end of summer,
the early sunlight barreling like a truck
down east-west streets, and the gulls of parking lots
wheeling in carnival arcs, screaming the sea.
~This poem was previously published in Poetry Salzburg Review (2011).
That crushed bones are its essence.
Bone and its ash, the essence of this body
whose fineness the light invades.
That Böttger died in the prisons
of Augustus the Strong, when all his alchemy yielded
was the secret of this whiteness.
That rainforests were transmuted,
waters galled with cyanide to gild
the rim clinking my teeth.
That cobalt pigments have clotted
the lungs of the girl whose delicate sable brushes
shaped these forget-me-nots.
That plague in the Middle Passage
stinks from slave ships chained at the auction block
of a sugar cube.
That the green lancets of tea leaves
are said to be the eyelids that Bodhidharma
sliced from his face, in self-loathing.
That these took root and grew
to become this morning's cup, decorous, fragrant.
That I raise all this to my lips.
THE STORY BEHIND THE POEMS
Perhaps because I spent a long time studying the poetry of past centuries, I’ve always been most comfortable with poetry that has a metrical pulse. That’s what I’ve written most often since coming back to writing my own poetry about eight years ago. The two unrhymed pieces should be read as having rough accentual meters—one in rough pentameter, one in mixed meter. I need to decide on a pulse before I can begin to write.“Late Season Day Trip” is inward-looking, relating the things I see on my morning commute to the general problem of finding enough hope to go on with living. “Teacup” contrasts with that and looks outward: it takes a seemingly innocent domestic object and tries to confront the societal evils that touch it.
ABOUT MARYANN CORBETT
Maryann Corbett grew up in McLean, Virginia, and now lives in St. Paul, Minnesota, and works for the Minnesota Legislature. She is the author of two chapbooks and two full-length collections, most recently Credo for the Checkout Line in Winter (Able Muse Press). Her poems, essays, and translations have appeared in Southwest Review, Barrow Street, River Styx, Atlanta Review, The Evansville Review, Measure, Literary Imagination, The Dark Horse, Mezzo Cammin, Linebreak, Subtropics, Verse Daily and many other journals in print and online, as well as an assortment of anthologies. She has been a several-time Pushcart and Best of the Net nominee, a finalist for the Morton Marr Prize, the Best of the Net anthology, and the Able Muse Book Prize, and a winner of the Lyric Memorial Award and the Willis Barnstone Translation Prize. Her web site is www.maryanncorbett.com.