Two sonnets

These two sonnets, “Nets” and “On Her Walk”, were written in 2016 as part of the unreleased Time-Wise Animals project.



There were pounds of cotton, bleached and dyed,
pulled from tufted blooms in southern seasons,
twisted into knots and diamond-tied,
soaked in blood and thunderstorms and reasons.
There was nylon, plastic spooled and cut,
fit for pulling life out of the water,
stretched across the frets in place of gut,
woven on the legs of someone’s daughter.
Millions walk the tightrope of abuse.
We look down. What chances will we take?
Safety nets of barbed wire are no use
but they’re cheap to build, and tough to break.
Will we perch our children on the wire?
Will we set the circus tent on fire?


On Her Walk

Ghosted pavement leaf-prints under sole.
Iron painted with the blood of rain.
Ink flows through the poster on the pole.
One green shoot twines up the metal drain.
Green paint on the red brick chiseled, chipped.
Chains on textured gates in cold, thick groups.
Scribbled cracks (unconscious urban script).
Faces formed in razor-wire loops…
Any wall can be a prison wall.
All her walls are canvases of time
where decadence bookends the wrecking ball,
defies the crane, the crew, the shiny crime.
In between construction sites, they talk —
old stones and broken things loved on her walk.

– C. A. Corbell

Prelude 4 (poetry)

Prelude 4

There are fragments that have been misplaced:
the bottle cap popped with lighter and knuckle,
the blue glass collection in the neighbor’s windows,
the red porch couch, the old green Schwinn,
the wedding gowns that the punk band wore,
the broken violin and matching helmet,
the thrift store print of midwestern mallards,
the metal cassette 4-track masters,
the vinyl pants and the foam trucker cap,
the ceramic fuses burnt out in the basement,
the library surplus-sale leftovers,
the pocket notebooks full of disintegrating hours
of abandoned bars, wilted parties, dropped classes,
the urban orbits and escape velocities
of bicycle sun and whiskey moon,
cheap rent, slow clock, sweet street…

The future excavation won’t find these.
It will only uncover the way, over centuries,
city blocks shift like puzzle pieces,
never quite fit
and the picture they were trying to make
changes completely
long before the missing piece is found.

– Christopher Corbell, August 2022


Our world’s a cornucopia of trash,
bright with all our aimless art’s depicting.
This habit’s an abundant source of ash —
every thing that burns can be addicting.

A flaming branch of bad and worse decisions
forks off universes, all entangled
quantum thoughts with infinite revisions,
cruelties, missteps, consequences mangled

in the predatory maw of time.
What if we just lie creature-still, and feel
the terror-gratitude of the sublime
and in our brokenness forgive the real?

Salvation is inverted. In this trying
some dreaming god gains mercy from the dying.


They keep multiplying,
right angles,
right angles to right angles,
cheap constructions,
the easiest way to appear

Most of the cosmos
is not orthogonal —
arc or diagonal,
wave or ripple,
circle or scribble.

Will the circle be cut
by and by,
by the axis?

Are your hours counted
in the quadrilaterals
of payroll stubs, resumés,
screens of square memes?

Measure your heart
with an old god’s feather.
Measure your work
with a rolling boulder.
Measure your hours
greater or lesser
in units of beauty.

My Muse is not Euclidean.
Her sword is fractal-edged,
her wings unfold like a falcon’s,
her irises shift in the colors of fire.

I would be a worthy maker –
one who sees use in the useless,
one who bends the straight toward elegance
and entangles the obvious,
one who hates the stolid moderation
between acute and obtuse.

Unworthy builders
work all in right angles –
ledgers and nameplates,
box stores and legal briefs,
swastikas, crosses, coffins.

Germ / St. Tantalus

The seed was made for cold,
patient in its sleep
below the soil-bound leaves.

Microscopic hunger
blackens, feeding spring
with clean decay.

In rich layers of space
is this blue earth-bubble,
seed among the stars.

Our busy action churns
bacterial in scale
for some work yet to sprout.

What germ is sleeping here,
what embryonic tree,
its branches all imagined,

its leaves spread to the possible,
its fruit beyond our mouths
and reaching fingers?

Saint Tantalus teach us
your stretch,
your fickleness.

Your prison is a husk,
your lust the force
inside the Holy Seed.