Because I’ve sized you up—I, puny biped; you, in your motorized Gargantua,
Because I wait in my flimsy human frame for the walk signal, shivering and stamping in the late-winter morning’s mingy twilight,
Because I hear the morning’s gunning motor— the drive chain of its oversize ambition, the insect-whine of rumors in a hallway, old worries, idling, dirtying the air,
Because, against these forces, my soul’s value is zero absolutely, given the windchill across that patch of ice now glittering between your wheeled behemoth and my crosswalk,
Because I’ve read the news that my coworker (she of the bright red hair and ready smile at the reception desk) is dead this morning of a grave error: rummaging through her purse for something that was not the approaching train,
Because the engine of some nameless will tosses us through our days as helplessly as her red shoe, shown in the photograph, still lying in the street.
To the Postal Carrier, About That Railing
Not even iron is everlasting:
Rust that raddles the porch handrail has eaten holes in the whole notion of upright. Grab, and it gives at your grip, false underfoot. Your feet go flailing.
How to heal this? Only a hero out of old magic can move to mend it: the iron-master, forging his mysteries hobbled, hunched, the hammer-wielder, grime smeared on his greasy apron.
Dumb, an actor from some dark age, he prods our modern pride to remember how hard it leans on the heft of metal. His minions arrive this rimey morning, grind our eardrums with their grim blades, and wrench wrought iron away for reworking.
To you now, loner, trudgingly lugging sacks full of debt and sagas of dailiness up slick steps on slumping shoulders, we pledge the troth of a trustier hold.
Let no more railing be raised against us.
Maryann Corbett is the author of five books of poetry. The newest, to appear this summer, is In Code, published by Able Muse Press, which is organized around the poems about her 35 years of work for the Minnesota legislature. She is a past winner of the Willis Barnstone Translation Prize and the Richard Wilbur Award. Her work is widely published in magazines like Ecotone, Rattle, River Styx, and Southwest Review; has appeared on American Life in Poetry, Poetry Daily, and Verse Daily; and has been included in The Best American Poetry 2018.