Fugue in October


Baroque chamber ensemble and homeless encampment, Saint Paul

Perfect: the singers, strings, and keyboards. Perfect

Bruised sky above the tents of the squatters’ district

the little jewel-box church, its bright acoustic

calm in the year’s last mildness, the only music

softened a little in the candles’ lighting,

the mumbling underpass. The wind. No fighting

for this is God’s mind, woven of harmonies

for once. Tonight, for once, no one ODs—

and our souls thread through the flame of the vigil lamp

someone got lucky at the entrance ramp

as we hold, hold to Monteverdi’s line

(panhandling, on this warm day, with a sign)

and stop our breath until the last string dies

and parcels out his manna of salty fries

in the last great chord of his Beatus vir

while sirens wail some sorrow, far from here.

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, and The Poetry Foundation, and in an assortment of anthologies including The Best American Poetry 2018.