Two Poems by Maryann Corbett

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Reasons for Hesitation

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 CorbettMaryann 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.

Read three poems by Maryann Corbett previously appearing in

Header photo by Vaclav Mach, courtesy Shutterstock. Photo of Maryann Corbett by Mims Photography. is the world’s first online journal of place, publishing a rich mix of literature, artwork, case studies, and more since 1997.