Tom Erickson & C Kubasta
Thomas J. Erickson’s poems have appeared in numerous publications. 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 this year by Pebblebrook Press. He was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2016. He is an attorney in Milwaukee where he specializes in criminal defense.
When I was a little kid, and I swear this is really true,
once I prayed that I would get one of my migraines.
And I did. And the black jackal came like he always did,
after the witching hour but before the birds sang,
and in the darkest dark I knew I had to crawl as fast
as I could to the bathroom to vomit whatever was good
out of me and for a few seconds I could rest my head
on the white cool porcelain while my Mom got the cot ready.
And I would lie there in the bathroom—
one movement of my head or sliver of light would
make the jackal mad and he would take his poker
and stab me right above my right eye and then the bile
would rise and he’d get what was left.
But the next day or maybe the day after, I could open
my eyes to the day and keep down some Seven-Up
and play Scrabble with my Mom. And he was gone.
Burden of Proof
A crack addict client kidnapped
a UWM student and drove her around
and held a gun to her head and raped her
and put her in the trunk of his car and
showed her to his friends and then let her
go at a gas station.
That’s what she said he did.
He said he picked her up at a bar
on Brady Street and she wanted to get high
so he bought crack with her money
and she was ready so he busted
his nut in the backseat and then
kicked her out of his car because
it was almost morning and he was
tired and she was getting to be
a clingy white bitch
which bugged the shit out of him.
I don’t know what really happened
and I don’t care.
Well, it’s not like I don’t care,
it’s that I can’t care. It shouldn’t make
a difference to me if he did it or not.
It shouldn’t make a difference
that my son goes to UWM
and that girl could have been his friend.
It shouldn’t make a difference that I get
a palpable thrill when I cross-
examine this girl on the stand.
But what if my doubts are reasonable
and my client did do it?
Then I can tell you I represent evil.
And I can tell you that addiction makes
experience matter. And on we go.
C Kubasta thinks poetry, like humor, porn, & horror, should be a body genre. Her favorite rejection (so far) noted that one editor loved her work, and the other hated it. Her poetry has appeared in So To Speak, Cosmonauts Avenue, Construction, Tinderbox Poetry Review and The Notre Dame Review, among other places. She is the author of two chapbooks: A Lovely Box (Finishing Line Press) which won the 2014 Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets Chapbook Prize, and &s (Finishing Line, 2016); and a full-length collection, All Beautiful & Useless (BlazeVOX, 2015). Her next book, Of Covenants, is forthcoming from Whitepoint Press in 2017.
She teaches English and Gender Studies at Marian University, in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, where she is active with the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets, and works with Brain Mill Press. She lives with her beloved John, cat Cliff, and dog Ursula. Find her at ckubasta.com.
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 us 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