C. Kubasta is the author the chapbooks, A Lovely Box and &s, and a full-length collection, All Beautiful & Useless (BlazeVOX, 2015). She has two books forthcoming in December 2017: Of Covenants (poetry, Whitepoint Press) and Girling (a novella, Brain Mill Press). She is active with the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets, coordinates the Lake Reading Series at the Thelma Sadoff Center for the Arts, and serves as Assistant Poetry editor with Brain Mill Press. Her work explores place (the Midwest), the body (our imperfect perfect flesh), and language (its slippages). Find her at www.ckubasta.com. Follow her @CKubastathePoet.
A Lovely Box, Finishing Line Press, 2013, order here.
Them & Us & We
If you were my sister we would know each other beneath the skin as wishes of our father the
acquiescence of our mother or the reverse who is to know what happens in darkened rooms in
lightened rooms in rooms that are not rooms before we are born
If you were my sister we would know each other only by the way others know us through our
most visible layer and even if not kin or kind the world would name s such
If you were my sister we would love the same way or the same way others named it a love
distinguished by lack by touch the touch always the same as if there is only one way my kind
makes this love
If you were my sister we would live without too much wanting too much having or the men we
call father would bring down the word which is the only word that ever matters
and I would mark my body with the mark of your body to say to the world that we are sisters
and you would repay my questions with the kindness of questions
so that it seems again we may wear this body in common
and these bodies would not be only a snapshot series of a hall light falling on nakedness a dark
rustling the smell of charcoal like an artist’s fingers must smell after making furious gestures
and I would not misspeak with the easy pronouns of us and them and you and I
If we were sisters and said “sister” to each other we would ask what kind of sister do you mean
what are you saying what are you calling me who are you to call me sister
The Only Woman in the Bar
All the men stop talking. I hear “women” and “naked.”
My friend says they were talking about the dangers of wolves.
Perhaps her mother was excessively fond of her(1). Or her grandmother doted on her still more.
These small-town men are my fathers, my brothers, my brothers’ best friends. I know them
under their beards, their layers of natural and synthetic fibers.
There were no wolves. But we want there to have been –it makes for a better story.
The poor child did not know it was dangerous to stay and talk to a wolf. The woman was no child.
Repeated press releases insist: there were no tracks, no bites, no signs of predation. There was only a woman, naked, dead in the parking lot of a local store that sold sundries, and foodstuffs, and beer.
By “we” I mean those men in the bar. But back in 1697, Perrault knew by “wolves” he didn’t mean wolves. The men in the bar are unaware.
By “we” I sometimes mean “I.” Who doesn’t love a good story?
The wolf cried out to her, softening his voice as much as he could. We can elide the middle part, the confusing part, the undressing part, the getting into bed.
Arms & Legs & Ears & Eyes & Teeth
By “we” I include Witness #40. The DA admitted, “Well, early on, I decided that anyone who claimed to have witnessed anything was going to be presented [ . . .] if I didn’t put those witnesses on, then we’d be discussing now why I didn’t put those witnesses on. Even though their statements were not accurate.”
The men in the bar stop talking. They might say it was out of courtesy, respect. An exaggerated politeness –it is what their mothers taught them. But I (as part of the “we”) know fear when I see it.
I say “wolf,” but there are various kinds of wolves.
We (and “I” am a part of this) enjoy the hunt. Sometimes it is as simple as Put the cake and the little pot of butter upon the stool, and come get into bed with me.
Sometimes it is as simple as a slightly long look.
Sometimes it is as simple as a tapping on the shirt, the quilted shooter’s patch, the reinforced pocket with button closure, and saying nothing.
Defenselessness is strong defense, the best offense.
There are always tracks in the snow; the snow makes what is always there visible.
Saying nothing is really saying, “Come and be defenseless with me.”
(1) All italics from a version of Perrault’s “Little Red Riding Hood,” in Lang’s The Blue Fairy Book, 1889