Maryann Corbett

When I haul my carcass up from my creaking knees
to mumble the old form
(stubbing my tongue on the brick of a new translation) humble me, Lord, to accept the awkward history
of these your mysteries,
a plotline tangled as the morning news, a bitterness in the mouth. First, Constantine,
pig-headed in the face of disagreement,
yelling ‘Impious fool!’ And Athanasius, wily, on the run,
a glamorous bandit, sending in his thugs
to rile up orthodox riot. Councils, anathemas, excommunications,
exiles. Seventy years of holy terror,
the violent bearing it away: a street mob in fourth-century Alexandria
wild with joy at the news
that the Emperor Constantius lay dead, which left them free to haul out their Arian bishop
and bash him to bloody pulp
to proclaim the Son homoousios with the Father. Yes, in the end they faded away, the Arians—
those pie-eyed optimists, certain
sheer, plodding will could make a man divine—a lovely notion, dodgy-sounding now
with barbarian tribes at the border
and falling across the empire, shadows of doubt.

Feature Date


Selected By

Share This Poem

Print This Poem

Maryann Corbett is the author of four books of poetry, most recently Street View, from Able Muse Press. She is a past winner of the Richard Wilbur Award and the Willis Barnstone Translation Prize. One of her poems will appear in The Best American Poetry 2018.

PN Review

May / June 2018


General Editor
Michael Schmidt

Deputy Editor
Andrew Lattimer

Through all its twists and turns, responding to social, technological and cultural change, PN Review has stayed the course. While writers of moment, poets and critics, essayists and memoirists, and of course readers, keep finding their way to the glass house, and people keep throwing stones, it will have a place.

“It has […] attempted to take poetry out of the backwaters of intellectual life and to find in it again the crucial index of cultural health. In so doing it has often succeeded in broadening the horizons of our view of twentieth-century poetry and in encouraging poets to be ambitious about their concerns.”
—Cairns Craig, Times Literary Supplement

“…probably the most informative and entertaining poetry journal in the English-speaking world.”
—John Ashbery

“…the premier British poetry journal. Its coverage is broad and generous: from John Ashbery to new young English poets, from essays on Continental poetics and fiction to reviews of neglected poets both living and dead. At a time when poetry is largely neglected, [it] continues to make an eloquent case for its centrality to our culture.”
—Marjorie Perloff

Poetry Daily Depends on You

With your support, we make reading the best contemporary poetry a treasured daily experience. Consider a contribution today.