Maryann Corbett’s third book, Mid Evil, won the Richard Wilbur Poetry Award and is forthcoming from the University of Evansville Press. Her poems, essays, and translations have appeared in Southwest Review, Barrow Street, Rattle, River Styx, Measure, Literary Imagination, The Dark Horse, Subtropics, Verse Daily, American Life in Poetry, The Poetry Foundation, The Writer’s Almanac, and many other venues in print and online, as well as an assortment of anthologies. She has been a several-time Pushcart and Best of the Net nominee, a finalist for the 2009 Morton Marr Prize, the 2010 Best of the Net anthology, and the 2011 Able Muse Book Prize, and a winner of the Lyric Memorial Award and the Willis Barnstone Translation Prize. She lives in Saint Paul and works for the Minnesota Legislature.
Tbeir revels now are ended. These, their agents,
powdered of face,
voguish of dress, stand sizing up the place.
Buyers in twos and threes
must swagger through these rooms, seeing themselves
brilliant against the beige neutralities
of freshly painted walls and curio’d shelves
these sorcerers will conjure. Yard-sale youth,
ragged and randy past, begone. Away,
sticky mementos of the whining truth,
forgotten glitter and misshapen clay.
Old chafings, be undone in this chastisement of their peace,
stripping-away of dross, flensing
of what they were. Let this be the release
that gentles them away.
Let the house sell and settle, and the debt
be null. Let them become the empty set
for someone else’s play.
WHEREAS, the records tell me he was twenty
in 1965, a new, spit-polished
second lieutenant aviator; and
WHEREAS, he was a rip-snorter at flying,
an ace at all of it, the buzzing low,
the cutting close, the dodging fire, the strafing,
the dropping of (as the citations have it)
his ordnance with a terror-eyed precision; and
WHEREAS, the photocopied texts inform me
he was devoted and performed his duty
in keeping with the Navy’s highest standards; and
WHEREAS, he neutralized his targets at
Vinh Hui, Quang Nai, and many other places
the official record has not troubled to name; and
WHEREAS, tonight he will sit at a banquet table
while others praise what the citations call
his skill, his dedication, NOW THEREFORE,
BE IT RESOLVED that, as my duty requires,
I will write words that ape these commendations,
to print on heavy paper with scroll borders,
important signatures, embossed gold seals,
and to be read with pomp in candlelight
at dinner. Crabcakes, or filet mignon.
Be it resolved that I have not forgotten
the faces of his targets. They run toward me
forever, naked, screaming, flesh on fire.