Police Procedural


by Maryann Corbett

The requisite three murder plots unsnarled,
red herrings snuffled, ragged subplots snipped,
and a cottage-garden placidness restored
in onscreen England and our armchair minds,
I shamble to the door for the night’s lockup

and halt, knifed in the eye by mystery:

Dead ahead from the doorway, cop-car strobes,
ice-white, and the walloping reds and blues of lightbars
silhouette the burly shapes of men
(holsters and nightsticks briefly clear enough)
as they cuff a third, more fragile-looking man,
his shoulders hunched against the might of the law.
Gnashing of engines scumbles other sounds.
All meanings hide themselves in the violent light.

More strobes, lightbars. Their brain-befuddling sweep
flash-outlines unknown gawkers from the sidewalk
as the thin man is folded out of sight.
Now, in muscular moves, one dark police-shape
rifles through a third car, its doors and trunk
splayed open like a pinned insect; a flashlight
pokes to be sure the thing is dead. The strobes
keep stabbing. Box-shaped ciphers thud to the pavement.

How many throbbing minutes do I stand there,
the light an icepick to my understanding?
One cop-car sidles off with the thin man,
the other with his confiscated secrets.
I watch the different, steadier lights of a tow truck
that makes short work of winching his car away.

We stumble to bed, as much in the dark as ever.

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.