A Journal of Poetry and Kindred Prose

Maryann Corbett’s

poems, essays, and translations have appeared or are forthcoming in Atlanta Review, The Evansville Review, Measure, The Dark Horse, First Things, and other journals in print and online.

Her chapbook Gardening in a Time of War was published in 2007 by Pudding House.

She lives in St. Paul, Minnesota, and works as a legal-writing adviser, editor, and indexer for the Minnesota Legislature.

—Back to Poetry Contents—


This is the one: the picture from before.
More beautiful than you have ever seen them,
they stand together in front of their first house,
in eight-by-ten matte silence, black-and-white.

More beautiful than you have ever seen them:
she—dark shirtwaist dress, open-toed shoes;
he—neatly mustached. His black-and-white
wingtips leap from the page: high-contrast joy.

Everything here is joyful. Open-toed shoes
place them post-war, these lovers, thoroughly lovely.
They’ve put off life for decades, starved for joy.
Now they pose with hydrangeas, in love with the world.

Like every couple in love, they are thoroughly lovely
so that you wonder, What happened? Could they not
have kept those lineless faces, in love with the world,
though open toes and wingtips would disappear?

You wonder, yet you know the answer. Not
some dark catastrophe: You were what happened.
You, so deeply dreamed, made smiles disappear.
Frowning child who lived in imagination,

you were the kata strophe, the turn that happened.
A problem from Greek drama, that parents’ wanting
should bend the arc of a child’s imagination
away (you think, watching your children go).

A problem out of tragedy, this wanting.
What happens when we clench our fists on dreams:
mistakes (you think, watching your children go).
Mark-missing. Hamartia. Not feeling whole.

But here no fists seem clenched. With light-held dreams
they stand together in front of their first house
where no one rested long or felt as whole
as in this scene, this picture from before.


Variorum On a photo of Berryman editing Shakespeare

Fourteen: that was the age.
Remember? On the edge
of drunk-with-words. A lush
for poems. Besotted. Trashed
on first successes, flush
with wishing, headwind-rushed
by an airborne line in a text
for English class, a flash
of page the librarian pushed.
The edge. Before the splash.

Consider: what has changed?
You know how much was hedged
of the words they wrote, the bards—
that behind the wind-lift phrase
is a stilled soul at a desk
with patience and index cards
(is it solid or sullied flesh?)
and greys in his mustache.
His fingers, tobacco-stained,
stab cigarettes to ash.