Maryann Corbett


Age-related hearing loss is often first signaled by tinnitus.

Alarm, alarm.

Just when that tease,
the empty-nester's
preening ease

was pied-piping
me resigned
comes this intonement,

whined, whined:
keening at umpteen

the cracked head
of the universe
(lungless, gutless,

bowless, unblown,
a Tuba mirum
all my own)

whistles the air
of an unsound mind,
a scraped tectonic plate,

a blind
and whizzing
asteroidal path

and aimed at Earth--
O high, O pure
song of the spheres!

Its signal ciphers
in my ears.

Foundation Myth

No one explained, when you were seventeen,
that fashion magazines were early training
for future trials, evils unforeseen.
(But then, you never listened to explaining.)

Transfixed, you lingered in the drugstore aisles
before the altars of the magazines
where mythic beings modeled brights and pales,
mattes, iridescents, pinks, aquamarines.

No darkness, ever. Hair did not turn steely.
None told how it grows tortuous, wizen-wired,
nor how the ridges of the aging nail
must be rubbed out. But still the myths conspired

to school you. Eyebrows thinned beyond the pale
and eyelash stubs now need the sort of wands
mascara conjures. Lips no longer full
call up the powers, and the hand responds

with skill. And yet of late the phantoms rise
in memory. They are the wombs that bore you,
the breasts that nursed you on the tints and dyes,
the mirror, mirrors on the wall before you:

Their charm of ivory, which ill repairs
brownish discolorations of the skin,
their toil and trouble at the prickling hairs
that summon blades and terror to your chin

proclaim you witch now. In the final scene,
you are the one they curse, the one they burn
in her own oven. Stoop: they shove you in,
door slammed against your shrieking, as they turn
the knob to something terminal, and run.


a sort of birthday poem for my daughter

Late-winter labor, long without progressing
and hard. At last, the C-section, and you.
A card and giddy flowers from my sister--
Dutch iris, jonquils. Wands of pussywillow.

Hopeless sucker for any dream that blooms
and for quick, cut-to-the-chase relief from waiting,
I've held onto a faith in silver catkins.
That long, cold, swaddled spring, dreaming of branches
to bring indoors for forcing, I bought a shrub,
a bare two-footer in a gallon pot,
planted it and retreated. You and I
kept to the house, learning each other's rhythms,
waiting for growth to happen, as it would.
It was mud season. Alleys ran in runnels
through ice-ruts, carrying wind-ripped plastic bags.

Twenty-five years. A woman with any sense
would cut it down, this proof of magical thinking
that laughed off warnings: Grows to thirty feet.
Its catkins, well above the roofline now,
pass tongue-stage, blown to sticky-bristled blobbets
of yellowcake. They atom-bomb my asthma.
They drop too near the house, a matted mess
clogging the gutters, fouling the ratty lawn.

I say this every year. And then the jays
and cardinals inspect the real estate
to nest, and the heart cuts back to where we started.


Maryann Corbett is the author of Breath Control, forthcoming from David Robert Books, and the chapbooks Dissonance and Gardening in a Time of War. She has been a winner of the Willis Barnstone Translation Prize and a finalist for the Morton Marr prize, the Best of the Net anthology, and the Able Muse Book Prize. Her poems, essays, and translations appear in many journals in print and online and in the anthologies Hot Sonnets, The Able Muse Anthology, and the forthcoming Imago Dei: Poems from Christianity and Literature. She lives in St. Paul and works for the Minnesota Legislature. Earlier work in Mezzo Cammin: 2009.1, 2007.1


Maryann Corbett
Nausheen Eusuf
Anna M. Evans
Rebecca Foust
Nicole Caruso Garcia
Karen Kelsay
Michele Leavitt
Laura Maffei
Susan McLean
Annabelle Moseley
Jennifer Reeser
Myrna Stone
Wendy Vardaman
Doris Watts
Marly Youmans

> Poet Terri Witek and visual artist Jo Yarrington appear in Evolve the Conversation.

> Mezzo Cammin to sponsor
scholarship at the West Chester Poetry Conference.
Holly Trostle Brigham: My paintings are rich with symbolism. I include flowers, butterflies, and other things from nature that communicate messages about the subject. These elements are interconnected with biographical references to tell a larger story about the sitter's life or place in history.
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