Featuring C. Kubasta & Tom Erickson
Two award-winning poets sharing their latest work.
C. Kubasta writes poetry, prose & hybrid forms. Her favorite rejection (so far) noted that one editor loved her work, and the other hated it. She is the author of two poetry chapbooks, the full-length collections, All Beautiful & Useless (BlazeVOX) and Of Covenants (Whitepoint Press), and the novella Girling (Brain Mill Press). Her novel This Business of the Flesh is newly out from Apprentice House. She teaches literature, writing & cultural studies at Marian University, where she is active with the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets, and works with Brain Mill Press. Find her at ckubasta.com. Follow her @CKubastathePoet.
On Being a Midwestern Poet
Because he spends tens of minutes
complimenting your work –your sharp lines & incongruous images, uses
words like “deft,” then wonders
how anyone can live there, comments how there’s
no culture, nothing
to write about. Tu quoque. It is about
more than line, more than ink. It is about how that ink
settles into skin. Skin is different than paper – it shifts, settles,
ages. Argumentum ad lapidem. You can feel
your vowels spreading, the idioms peppering
your reply, hoping he
won’t be able to follow. You remind him
you live there. “Yes,” he says, “but you left.” Post hoc
ergo propter hoc. Contextomy. And
returned. By choice. These are my people.
Here. Where our only elevations
are septic mounds or reclaimed landfills beyond
the perimeter of town
where as children we learned
speed, fear, exhilaration. Argumentum ad antiquitatem. And
they are always named “Garbage Hill.” Each town
has one. The way each town
has one of me, sitting in the local bar, like the strange rock
found picking the fields, brought home
for its unusual color, or the impression that may be a fossil
identified some future day when it will be shown to the local extension agent. Celebrated
or tolerated, some local color, rarely
read. Argumentum ex silentio. The way the smell
of the ethanol plant is first welcomed, uncannily like syrup, but then
turns the stomach. But each of these houses can still be breached
through the forgotten milk box (if you can fit), or maybe
the coal chute.
This is something we criminals know. Ad hominem. We adult children
of these places we call home.
Thomas J. Erickson grew up in Kohler, Wisconsin. He received a Bachelor of Arts in English Composition from Beloit College and a law degree from Marquette University. He is an attorney in Milwaukee, where he is a member of the Hartford Avenue Poets. His award-winning chapbook, “The Lawyer Who Died in the Courthouse Bathroom” was published by Parallel Press of the University of Wisconsin Libraries in 2013. His full length poetry book, “The Biology of Consciousness”, was published in 2016 by Pebblebrook Press. His chapbook, “Hailstorm Interlude”, will be published in the fall of 2018 by Finishing Line Press. He was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2016. He lives in Milwaukee with his wife, Daphne, and is the proud father of Charles and John.
In an Empty Courtroom
To my surprise, no one’s around.
The bailiffs are getting the prisoner
from the jail; the clerk’s in the back
somewhere; the judge still at lunch.
The defense table is skirted with heavy black cloth
to prevent the jury from seeing
the defendant shackled to the iron rings
cemented to the floor.
The clerk’s station is adorned
with a few withering plants. On the wall
is a portrait of a long-dead judge gazing down
on me with bored benevolence.
I run my hand the length of the polished wood
in front of the jury box. Looking up,
I can see the scattershot of dead bugs
in the big light fixtures suspended
like dim globes about to fall.
I take the witness stand and look out
at the empty gallery and wonder what
to say or whom to answer. I wonder too
about the time I have spent in this room
and the representations I have made—
of my clients and of myself.
Someday, surely, this courtroom will shutter,
this place of deliberation and whim,
of bondage or freedom. A shell
and a citadel. And now, a place, for me,
of a sudden discordant contentment.
Who will be the very last
to be judged here?
What did he do?
What did they say he did?
Who will be me?