American Life in Poetry

by Ted Kooser, U.S. Poet Laureate


To celebrate the end of summer, here is a sonnet full of explosions by Maryann Corbett, who lives in Minnesota. It’s from her book Street View, published by Able Muse Press.

State Fair Fireworks, Labor Day

Look up: blazing chrysanthemums in rose

shriek into bloom above the Tilt-a-Whirls,

hang for a blink, then die in smoky swirls.

They scream revolt at what the body knows:

all revels end. We clap and sigh. Then, no—

another rose! another peony! break,

flame, roar, as though by roaring they might make

the rides whirl in perpetuum. As though

we need not finally, wearily turn, to plow

back through the crush of bodies, the lank air,

two buses that inch us, sweating, across town.

As though we were not dropped in silence there

to trudge the last blocks home, the streetlamps low,

the crickets counting summer’s seconds down.


American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2017 by Maryann Corbett, “State Fair Fireworks, Labor Day,” from Street View, (Able Muse Press, 2017). Poem reprinted by permission of Maryann Corbett and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2018 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. Unsolicited manuscripts will not be accepted.

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