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The Resistance

  • Their backs bent double and their heads kept low,
  • the seedling maples infiltrate the row.
  • A tyrant with a keen idea of order,
  • I slaughter the insurgents at the border,
  • scuffle and slash and yank and pluck and tweeze.
  • But revolution pinwheels down the breeze:
  • Acres of green back gardens — maple-graced —
  • rain down new hopes that root in rot and waste
  • to rise demanding, mindless, ruthless, rife.
  • All forces fail against their rabble life,
  • their want that everlastingly insists.
  • They lift their heads. And then they raise their fists.
  • (Previously published in River Styx)

Concealed Carry

  • Yes, any idiot might be carrying here.
  • No taped-up gun-ban sign, square capitals
  • flapping against the supermarket doors:
  • FOODCO BANS FIREARMS IN THESE PREMISES.
  • Nada. So anybody might be packing.
  • But aren’t we always at each other’s mercy?
  • Guileless and stubby-fingered as the toddler
  • who grubbed in his mother’s purse and shot her dead,
  • we never know what triggers we might pull.
  • Every word, a small bomb at the roadside:
  • Lob the grenade of your long and placid marriage
  • at the gray clerk, alone again at sixty.
  • Grandchild-gossip — it’s acid in the face
  • of the woman down the aisle, still empty-armed.
  • Even now amid the produce bins,
  • as Marvin Gaye wails heard it through the grapevine,
  • the man beside you is setting his broccoli down
  • abruptly, as though skewered through the vitals.

Lesson

  • Once, the child of a neighbor down the alley
  • (kid just getting the hang of chubby pencils;
  • mother barely a nod-and-wave acquaintance)
  • stopped me, urgent of eyebrows, face a puzzle,
  • asking, would I be going back to school now?
  • No, I chuckled, I’d had enough of schooling.
  • (That left out the specifics: strings of letters
  • straggling after my name; gilt-edged diplomas.)
  • Here’s what held in my brain: the pang of grown-up
  • panic wringing his answer: “But you have to!
  • Finish! And find a job. And pay the landlord.”
  • Little ears, so expert at overhearing....
  • (How I handled the rest, the conversation
  • turning matters around to chalk and crayons,
  • memory muddles now. But the scar of hearing
  • woe not meant for my ears — it’s a welt, still tender.)

Maryann Corbett has published three books of poetry: Breath Control (2012); Credo for the Checkout Line in Winter (2013), which was a finalist for the Able Muse Book Prize; and Mid Evil (2014), the winner of the Richard Wilbur Award.

In 2009, Corbett was the co-winner of the Willis Barnstone Translation Award. Her poems and translations have appeared widely in print and online and have been featured in Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, American Life in Poetry, and The Writer’s Almanac. She lives in Saint Paul, MN, and is recently retired after almost 35 years of work for the Minnesota Legislature.

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