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Saturday, October 03, 2015


by Maryann Corbett

“Somehow this has become routine....”
                —Barack Obama

How this becomes routine, we cannot tell.
The bashful toddler’s ringlet-haloed head,
how early does it hear the songs of hell?

The nattering of talking heads, so shrill
it crawled inside the childish mind and bred?
How is this now routine? We cannot tell.

The silent, brooding boys who tripped and fell
down through the blacklight labyrinth of dread
whose only soundtrack is the song of hell?

We guess they held a hurt, its heft, its chill,
and gripped a fury till their fingers bled—
Routine, routine. This little we can tell:

Post office, movie theater, shopping mall,
and classrooms whence all understanding fled
ring with the screaming antiphons of hell.

What love, ringing its changes on the knell
of cell phones from the pockets of the dead,
must hear routine, routine? We cannot tell
how human ears unhear the songs of hell.

Maryann Corbett's third book, Mid Evil, won the 2014 Richard Wilbur Award. She lives in Saint Paul and works for the Minnesota Legislature.