A ritual for the year about to turn:
We drive off, ceremonious, under a dark
star-pricked and clear. A tinsel-curl of moon
fades in floodlight over the lots. We park
close in, the early wisps of a winter storm
driving the ceremony. Under the dark
of doubt and terrible headlines, let us perform
to oboe sounds, in icelights, a mime of hope.
The midweek lull, false calm before the storm,
and the mild Mozart soothe. Can this light-scape
lay the old ghosts of children’s fallen faces?
Can icelights, oboes, dissipate the fog-shape
of errors past, or futures with hollow voices
that bark, saluting, Nothing to report—?
Well, let us hope. Let us stroll with lifted faces
and cleave to sound and ceremony and art,
in rituals for a year about to turn
dark corners. Space is flinging itself apart
star-pricked and clear, with a tinsel-curl of moon.
After Epiphany: Side Street
A leaden matins. Up the block,
the scattered crows voice disapproval.
A tow-truck groans: someone has fallen victim
to the hard machinery of snow removal.
Someone has fallen, hard. The alley
lies there plotting its slick betrayal.
Fog-freeze blears our prospects. Time ticks dully,
keeping accounts. Dull forms come in the mail.
Fallen on ordinary time,
we drag our stripped trees to the trash,
neighbors along a straight-and-narrow climb.
The roadside snow takes on the grit of ash,
quit with the season, glum, half-gray.
Salted by sober reckoning,
we hunker down, not ready yet to tally
the debt of penance for another spring.
Credo for the Checkout Line in Winter
Even while sleet spits in the parking lot
and a bored girl with a tongue stud and fuchsia hair
rings up these tasteless, stone-hard, gassed tomatoes,
even now, I believe with perfect faith
in the rounded, fragrant heirloom types to come.
In covered farmers’ markets where flats of pansies
spread in uncountable rows, their petals trembling
exactly the way it felt once, new-
shucked from tux and tulle, sprung from our childhoods,
rocketing into new lives, our possessions
wagging behind us, crammed in a twelve-foot U-Haul
with a governor and no radio, belting John Denver
at the tops of our lungs for eleven hundred miles
of farmland stippled green.
And on the third day
we came, gravel-throated and bone-jarred,
to the place appointed. A stony hole in the ground
gaped where a street should go, in front of our building,
and we lugged our laden dressers across the blocks
through air gritty with seasonal road construction,
not faltering even then. And forty years
of falling on stony ground still see us springing
and therefore I believe in the future
of the geeky bagger who never meets my eyes
but will someday win the smile of the pink-haired cashier.
In palms, as they beckon to me from glossy covers
and sway over swimwear that conquers the laws of physics.
In Elvis, who will return in a blaze of sequins
to burn away all sorrow, yea though he tarry.
Maryann Corbett is the author of two chapbooks, Dissonance and Gardening in a Time of War. Her poems, essays, and translations have appeared in many journals in print and online. New work is forthcoming in Subtropics, Literary Imagination, andAmerican Arts Quarterly. She lives in St. Paul and works for the Minnesota Legislature.