Trimming Out, 1911

Poem by Maryann Corbett

Merriam Park, Saint Paul


Something more than stolid need

stands behind this polished work—

mitered molding, header, bead,

secret in the closet’s dark.

Some apprentice at his trade,

set to learn in hidden places,

told his passions plain, to braid

charms that even now enlace us

though we guess what binding-spells

overcame his calloused hands,

galled in gas-and-foxhole hells

seven years along, in France.

Ordinary human love

fails to hold the world in form.

Different rigors, soon enough,

wrung from dulce et decorum,

follow from the battlefront:

settling plaster cracked to crumbs,

simple comfort sunk to want,

houses hacked to rental rooms.

Dumb, occult, the beauties sit,

oak or maple, dark and sweet.

Mitered corners meet and fit.

Ghost Edwardians shade the street

down its hundred years of ill,

sullen in their crafts and arts.

We who merely buy and sell

strip them for replacement parts.