August 2001

Corinna Vallianatos


Corinna Vallianatos lives in Washington, DC. Her poetry appears or is forthcoming in the Boston Review, Indiana Review, Fence, and Quarterly West. Traffic cops care nothing for this.
This Is Your Life     

To appreciate your position you must remember something
difficult, the dark morning,
all the beat-up automobiles.
Putting on your clothes in the steam after a shower,
you think your body's some kind of unfriendly
atmosphere, viewed in snatches
through a telescope of novice quality.
At work, computer screens shine and postulate,
the disreputable early models
moved to rooms without windows
where they keep their own secret company
like video poker machines.
This is your life. This is a market of highly skilled
mediocrity, chair coasters
like miniature globes and fluorescent tubes trembling
like the torsos of naked dancers.
Because every thought disputes what it's built on,
doubt and belief become the brightly-colored vacillating sides
of a mechanical sign that means warmth in the highway's night.
Or the two tones of despair in an animal face,
the way doors swing open to reveal
furniture made of hay,
of old friends snorting strychnine around a sewing table.
Morning glory, your mind says stubbornly,
Lee-press-on-nails, My-soul-is-awake.
Two 15-minute smoke breaks, hour for lunch,
and vending machines that reflect
the real crunch and plow of the American landscape.
Me, me, a co-worker might plead,
pad and pencils ready,
and really it is not so hard to sketch the essential
lines and planes of a willing face,
or to think of a word worth hanging.
At the last staff luncheon,
terror was devoured,
and at the last staff meeting,
bibs were disseminated,
and endurance blenders and hordes of copper and plates.
Huddling for warmth next to the coffee maker,
the refrigerator expectedly freezing up
last year's entrees,
you realize you once had a thing of great beauty.
A fall weekend, turning
down a long drive, the wind cracking the nuts out of the trees.
A person's furniture outlives her,
and relatives often don't want to pick through the remains.
Here's a bargain couch, a bargain table.
Death happened here;
it fits you perfectly.



Corinna Vallianatos: Poetry
Copyright 2001 The Cortland Review Issue 17The Cortland Review