It looks like knucklebones, the way the lines
fist up in fours, each rhyme a hardened stud
under a leather glove. Or meat-fork tines.
You stab with them; the puncture holes ooze blood.

It's built for doing damage. It's compact.
It lays its weapons down in ordered rows,
puts on its ninja costume, silk and black
and disciplined, adopts its kung fu pose,
waits. Is silent.

                       Then it whirls around,
flips on its superpowered X-ray glance,
and THWACK! your nemesis is on the ground.
(And, God, the satisfaction when he lands.)

You feel like watching someone's entrails twist?
Write one of these. A sonnet is a fist.


We dress ourselves
from the Goodwill store
since Art has kept us
genteelly poor
and we laugh together
at how we've slummed
amid vocalises
and arias hummed
and the mirth for both of us
seemed sincere
so I joked, where others
could overhear,
about our finds
in the plaids and prints

and saw you wince.

The Art Student's Mother Thinks Out Loud

I can't believe you're going back to clean
white canvas. All that work gessoed away--
tossed, a lightweight love affair, expunged,
wiped out with giant swipes of a housepaint brush.
You swab it on in globs, a cumulus
fair weather over the storm of art that blew

out of your cloudy head. You wanted blue,
you said; you needed paint. I let you clean
me out of hallway touch-up color. In cumulous
rag piles, Pollocky drips, you slathered away
days, nights, acrylics, oils--used every brush
you own, and then took mine, down to the sponge

out of my kitchen. Stuff I let you sponge
off me, wasted! You never settle. You blow
things off. I'll stick with words instead of brushes,
chisels, cameras, things you have to clean,
maintain, replace, keep dribbling away
cash on. I'm tight: fond of accumula-

tion, hoarding, piling up (what cumulus
means: a pile). I soaked up like a sponge
my mother's Thirties ethic: throw away
nothing! Yet somehow, out of the blue,
here you are, a spendthrift, prodigal, clean
break with your ancestral line, a brush

with risk and danger. Should I learn to brush
off years of ingrained habit? Rain like a cumulo-
nimbus crazy thunderhead, wring clean
this brain of words till it's an empty sponge?
Spend myself with abandon on the blue
jewel of a poem, not care what blows away?

Grasp it: the world likes waste. It throws away
a million buds from the backyard tree; we brush
them off the walks, into the compost. They blow
down freely. No resentment. White as cumulus,
your empty canvas waits to be the sponge
for your next grand inspiration. In the clean,

clean air outside, rough with the breeze's airbrush,
old work is scoured away, and cumulus-
white sponges are scrubbing off the sky's blank blue.


Maryann Corbett grew up in northern Virginia. She holds a doctorate in English from the University of Minnesota and has worked for 25 years as an editor, indexer, and in-house writing teacher for the Minnesota Legislature. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Measure, Alabama Literary Review, First Things, The Lyric, The Raintown Review, The Barefoot Muse, and other journals. She serves as a moderator on Eratosphere, an online forum for metrical poetry. She and her husband live in Saint Paul, Minnesota.


Debra Bruce
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Judith Taylor: No one seems to disagree with me when I say there's something compelling about these images. Maybe it's because we're so inundated by the media with narrative that is manipulated and inflated that these honest little private struggles to say something touch us at the core. The eye with which we see them now is not the eye of the young writer, and that distance is interesting, surprising. Maybe the connection between the adolescent girl and the adult woman, or the diary page and the studio wall, is closer than I think.
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