Maryann Corbett


A Description of a Legislative Day

After the manner of Dr. Swift

Mid-April: Field-trip buses ring the Mall,
Spilling their charges toward the Capitol
Between flanked jonquil borders’ strict display.
Inside, the school choir scheduled for the day
Swells the Rotunda till the building thrums
(Handel one day, the next Ojibwe drums).
Few listen. For the last great Deadlines loom!
Here in a walnut-paneled Hearing Room
Ten sharply honed amendments to a Bill
Go down, while one drawn hastily and ill
Is shoehorned in ’gainst Grammar and Good Sense
To spawn next year’s Judicial Arguments.

The Lobbyists commiserate outside,
Lamenting how each needful change has died,
But are cut short: Three sharp metallic squawks
Bark out from every office Speaker-box,
And weary tones, worn almost to a drawl,
Recite the form, The House is Under Call,
Whereat, fatigued but with a dogged will,
The members crowd the vestibules to fill
The slowest elevators on the Earth;
Land with a jolt, a gasp, and nervous mirth;
Amble green lawns; ascend a marble stair.
Prayer by the Chaplain drones across the air.

Quorum’d and gaveled, bent on Special Orders,
Hyperaware of cameras and reporters,
By stiff Procedure they’re kept organized
(‘Neath Art where History’s been sanitized).
Still, as they bulldoze through the Calendar,
Their partisan harangues devolve to War,
Fuming and posturing for the Media blitz—
Like Cicero, I shall pass over this.
Labored and long their disputation rages
On Bills blown up to several hundred pages,
At last concluding near the witching hour.
But here’s the truth of legislative Power:

While members drag toward fitful hours of ease,
Staff whom no video camera ever sees
Toil through the night, for too-small recompense,
To shape the legal Sausage into sense.

O Reader! when the Commentators’ Bile
Ebbs for the night, pray think on these awhile.

The Interpretation of Dreams, Updated

Really, Subconscious? Sinking to cliché
again? Your recent efforts, dear, are poor.
You offer labyrinths, then block my way
with actual baggage piled across a door?

You did, I grant, attempt a twist of plot:
one moment, cramped and moldering halls; another,
a bloodstain spreading like a Rorschach blot.
But at the end, the same old saw: my mother—

as usual disapproving, and still dead—
says nothing to reproach me, yet she does it,
with some strange failure hoarded in my head,
some object of my panicked search (what was it?)

Who needs this schlocky stockroom stuff? Break free!
Back to the story board. And therapy.

Maryann Corbett’s third book, Mid Evil, won the Richard Wilbur Award and was published in 2015 by the University of Evansville Press, and her fourth book, Street View, is forthcoming in 2017 from Able Muse Press. Her poems, essays, and translations have appeared on Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, American Life in Poetry, The Poetry Foundation, The Writer’s Almanac, and many other venues in print and online. Her work has won the Lyric Memorial Award and the Willis Barnstone Translation Prize. She lives in Saint Paul and is now thankfully retired after almost 35 years of working for the Minnesota Legislature.