An Orientation


by Maryann Corbett

If, in the midst of this elated day,
someone took him aside with the stern warning,
Most of your life will not be like this morning,
he’d never hear it. How—while fountains play
beside clipped lawns and walkways arched with green
maples that move to stipple white and gold
on paths he and his harried parents have strolled
laden for move-in—how could he hear? He’s seen
Arcadia now, where classical facades
put a straight face on tanglements of thought,
and edgy spears of light and color, wrought
in steel and glass, look daggers at the gods.

The whole week’s strewn with glittering temptations
and parti-colored parties for the eyes:
Gown-sleeves aflap like tropical butterflies,
professors float along in convocations.
Some one of them, someday, and over a drink,
will show him grittier visions: Rumor. Snark.
Administrative bloat. Nowhere to park.
How only summers bless you with time to think.
How even the mind’s beauties fester, vexed
by deadlines, balky software, budget hassle.
How research builds its turreted air-castle,
gorgeous for one day, rubble on the next.

But here, today, does anybody give
a bleep for realness? Let us cleave to form,
leaving him to his roommate and his dorm
and whispering, Here’s the poison. Drink and live.


About the Author:

Maryann Corbett is the author of four books of poetry, most recently Street View from Able Muse Press. Her third book, Mid Evil, was the 2014 winner of the Richard Wilbur Award; she is also a past winner of the Willis Barnstone Translation Prize. Her work appears in many journals, has been featured on Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, and American Life in Poetry, and is included in The Best American Poetry 2018.

Cover image by Jev55 via Flickr (cc)