The Chimaera: Issue 6, August 2009

«Issue Cover

Maryann Corbett


Cold Case

They’re less than clear,
*************the clues you look through,
but bode no good.
*************The bent needles.
The crystal glass.
*************Crackhead glyphs —
obscure, a script
*************in a screwball scrawl —
craze the surfaces,
*************streaking symbols
in drugged frenzy,
*************all dendrites firing.
Blinking’s no good.
*************What blurs your vision
has deeper roots:
*************The years of damage.
The sheer pain
*************you’re staring past,
stumped. But take
*************a stab at its name.

Tattoo and Piercing Parlour

and your own soul a sword shall pierce...

Trance and techno thudding against my eardrums,
out of breath from climbing, I get my bearings
slowly here: a second-floor retail walk-up,
not in my safe zone.

Look: the reddened arm of a skinhead sales clerk,
wreathed with bloody thorns of a fresh tattooing.
Shrine-like dimness. There in the jewelry cases,
what am I seeing?

Body parts in effigy. They confound me,
suede-skinned, grey-black models of navels, eyebrows,
nipples. Vulvas. Penises. Now I see it:
These are the places

piercings go, those wounds that demand attention.
Glass-encased, Sebastian-like, multi-studded,
jewel-encrusted: icons of modern martyrs’
vulnings in secret.

Dancing on the point of a thorny question,
(daughter smiling, skinheaded sales clerk smiling,
all things consummated) I grope for answers,
stumbling toward daylight:

All this piercing. Who is the god who asks it?
Whose young purgatorio might be shortened,
lightened by these penances? Can one buy here
something redeeming?

Also by Maryann Corbett in this issue

Maryann Corbett is a co-winner of the 2009 Willis Barnstone Translation Prize. Her poems, essays, and translations have appeared or are forthcoming in River Styx, Atlanta Review, The Evansville Review, Measure, The Dark Horse, and other journals. Her chapbook Gardening in a Time of War was published in 2007 by Pudding House. She lives in St. Paul, Minnesota, and works as a legal-writing adviser, editor, and indexer for the Minnesota Legislature.
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