Winter for a Moment Takes the Mind
{An Umbrella Special Feature}

Maryann Corbett’s

poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Measure, The Lyric, Alabama Literary Review, The Barefoot MuseThe Raintown Review and other journals in print and online, and her work has been nominated for the Pushcart and Best of the Net anthologies.

She lives in St. Paul, Minnesota, and works as a legal-writing adviser, editor, and indexer for the Minnesota Legislature. Her chapbook Gardening in a Time of War is just out from Pudding House Press.

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Cold War

With all positions so hardened,
the ice thick on the sidewalks,
its rubble a scab over the ground,
one might be driven to foolish measures,
might take out the big electric demolition hammer
to bash at the rind on the front walkway
and end up with scarred concrete
and fifteen seconds of fame on the evening news
and the neighbors shaking their heads.
One might lose patience.

One might forget that at some point
the rubber boots will sink in the muddy ground,
that the handful of dirt thrown down in defiance
will break, as the ground itself breaks,
that at any moment the pink fists of the rhubarb
will raise their rebellion out of the thaw,
the spears of the peony pierce the soil
to aim their missiles toward a slow explosion
in million-petaled white clouds,
blood-red at the edges.


Express Monday, Mid-January, St. Paul, Minnesota

In snow, in darkness, we wait for the 53.
It plods up Marshall under the meager streetlights,
its tires spattering curbs with a slurry of gray.
Aboard, we sink into ourselves, our papers,
our thick-down-jacket armor against the world,
just as the bus drops down the on-ramp’s incline
to bore down I-94.

                                            Outside, blackness;
inside, eerily bright, like Hopper’s diner
hurtling along at sixty miles an hour,
everyone's eyes as private as if we wore
those gray fedoras. Sleuthing, we hunt for answers
while brilliant necklace beads of westward headlight
string themselves toward us, past us, in the dark.

A shift of light: we’re into the labyrinth
where on- and off-ramps knit with city streets,
over and under. And now instead we’re like
the crews on submarines in old war movies:
cramped, quiet, sunk in the interstate’s ocean—
moving as if in a thousand feet of water,
weighed down by the weather forecast—twenty below—
the headline that says the local Guard battalion
will have its tour extended, the news that life
will go on as it has. At the Fifth Street exit,
we surface to globes and twinkles: Winter Carnival
set to go on in spite of everything.

Now one block at a time: stop go stop go.
We dribble off, dispersing like the photons,
kept going only by the laws of physics.
Nothing here bears witness to the light
but a stain bleeding into the eastern sky.