All in by Maryann Corbett

by Maryann Corbett

The clear amber scent in its bottle. Its glint from the top of the vanity:

cut-crystal flutes with a frosted-glass stopper, catching the sun, on her vanity.

 

The glamorous dreams of our mother, unspoken to curious children,

were sharp as the quarter-moon curve of that bottle enshrined on the vanity.

 

What were they guarding, what secrets? And how would a child understand them?

And what was I thinking, small magpie lured on by the glitter of vanity?

 

Wreckage of beauties: the spill. The wet, the gray film on the rosewood.

I was the firstborn, the first to drive thorns through the heart of her vanity.

 

Painfully, mothers forgive. (On the mountain with seven stories,

how long will the granite of penitence weigh on the spine of my vanity?)

 

(And what do my children remember? what hauntings by anger and tears

does my memory hide from itself in the metal-bound chest of my vanity?)

 

Sixty years on, and the stain-mottled dresser now broods in my bedroom,

breathing regret, and my name, and the words of the Preacher: Vanity!

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Maryann Corbett is the author of four books of poetry. Her work has won the Richard Wilbur Book Award and the Willis Barnstone Translation Prize and has been published in venues like Southwest Review, Barrow Street, Rattle, River Styx, Atlanta Review, The Evansville Review, Measure, Literary Imagination, The Dark Horse, Subtropics, Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, American Life in Poetry, The Poetry Foundation, and The Writer's Almanac, and in an assortment of anthologies including The Best American Poetry 2018.