The Restaurants of Frogtown
Left everything. Left Laos in '78.
Followed a husband following Vang Pao.
Moves briskly; brings a customer his pho;
clears a table; buses a gummy plate;
bustles back to the register to grin
and greet me. Left the mountains. Kept the words.
Makes do without the tenses of her verbs.
Survived the camps in Thailand. Knows it's been
some weeks since I've been here. The framed paj ntaub
embroideries behind her hold their peace
forever. Now she brushes from her face
thin strands of gray and bows her tiny bow,
offering me my take-out almond ding.
What compensates for leaving everything?
Maryann Corbett is the author of Breath Control, (David Robert Books, 2012) and the chapbooks Dissonance (Scienter Press, 2009) and Gardening in a Time of War (Pudding House, 2007). She has been a winner of the Willis Barnstone Translation Prize and a finalist for the Morton Marr prize, the Best of the Net anthology, and the Able Muse Book Prize.
Her poems, essays, and translations have appeared in many journals in print and online, including River Styx, Atlanta Review, The Evansville Review, Literary Imagination, Measure, Subtropics, and The Dark Horse, as well as a number of anthologies. New work is forthcoming in PN Review and 32 Poems. She lives in St. Paul and works for the Minnesota Legislature.