Maryann Corbett

though often translated as “tragic flaw,”
means literally a missing of the mark, a mistake.

We listen nervously. The social worker
is here now to address the block club meeting
to talk about our neighbor: the alley lurker
who barks You think I’m a Nazi? if we greet him
with a wave. Who thinks we blacklist him from jobs,
steal from his house. Disheveled, unemployed,
he haunts the playgrounds and the school bus stops,
tight-jawed, unnerving as an armed grenade.

The social worker asks us to consider
how this life feels (her word is paranoid).
How much he suffers. How he lives in fear.
The likely end, she says, is suicide.

I think of ancient Greeks, of tragic error.
Pity is hard. Much easier is terror.

Maryann Corbett’s chapbook Gardening in a Time of War is just out from Pudding House. Her poems have appeared or will appear in Measure, The Lyric, Alabama Literary Review, The Barefoot Muse, and other journals in print or online.