A rubbernecking tourist of exotic rites,
I ambled out one Sunday to the Maronites,
one of four churches huddling worriedly together
in the old immigrant district, one to a corner.
This was the Arabic-language, not the English mass. (My lapse?
My fidget curiosity, perhaps.)
And in the pew, a songless alien in a foreign land,
muzzled, tongue-tied, I groped to understand,
mimicking motions, bending and unbending knees
(the hands folded on mine: the Middle Eastern peace)
but clueless to the words—except the name Allah,
still thorn-wreathed, in my ears, with the razor wire of war.
Grasping the thorn to worship what it named—
my own, my household God—I knelt, and was ashamed.
Maryann Corbett earned a doctorate in English from the University of Minnesota and expected to be teaching Beowulf and Chaucer and the history of the English language. Instead, she spent almost thirty-five years untangling the sentences of lawyers at the Minnesota Legislature. She came back to poetry in 2006, and she’s now the author of three books of poetry and two chapbooks. Her newest, Mid Evil, won the 2014 Richard Wilbur Award from the University of Evansville Press. She is a past winner of the Willis Barnstone Translation Prize and a past finalist for the Howard Nemerov Sonnet Award and the Able Muse Book Prize. Her fourth book, Street View, will be published by Able Muse Press in 2017.