A Poet Looks at the World as a Man Looks at a Woman1
. . . not in the fashion of a farmer, a pastoral poet, or a modern exurbanite, but, strange as it sounds, in the fashion of a predator such as a wolf.
—Karl Kroeber, on Wordsworth’s relation to nature
Scar : rock : crag
from skerre, 1387 n. a lofty face
of rock upon a mountainside; a precipice, cliff
Great-grandmother Vernie in Fountain City, southern Wisconsin,
along the Mississippi. The ditches deep and concrete, littered with snakes
sunning. Each spring washed out, downtown flooded.
Mark the change, fall to winter, as semi-trailers
from the hills miss the turn before the tracks,
plunge into the muddy brown, ice-laced under bunchgrass.
from scar, 1673 n. A low or sunken rock
in the sea; a rocky tract
at the bottom of the sea
In Bath, I’d call my married boyfriend
at work, his secretary trilling, the American bird’s on the phone, and he’d ask
Can’t you at least put on the accent? I learned “aunt” for “ant” forsaking the spreading vowels of the Midwest, the wide planed of open-mouthed sound, for clipped teeth and tongue, staccato.
Scar, 1791 n. The rough burnt-out cinder
left in a furnace
San Diego, 1970. My father buys my mother
formal gowns—at one shop, the dress
modeled by Miss California. My mother’s dress a size larger, altered
to fit. (She called them the “curse of the Swiss Mountainclimber” her calves
bunched short and bulky. I have great legs, she said, for climbing mountains.)
Alexandria, Virginia, 1988: Her best friend Marsha. Our last vacation as a family, to
Washington. Marsha’s boyfriend was on the five-year plan.
He could have been her son. We stayed
at a hotel. My mother could barely sit down, her tailbone throbbing
since giving birth to the last of us. My father drove the 16 hours
there and back Back
when they loved each other
A fault or blemish remaining as a trace of some former condition But everyone
has them, ordinary as childhoods, ordinary as teeth. Scarring the process of healing:
thickened tissue covers the memory of a wound. It is the act of being well.
the relationship of women to the physical world, to the earth, by implication to a place is
through breeding, through bearing
(Adam did all the naming.)
That’s like the one they tell about another female writer. When this hard-boiled stuff first came in, she dropped the trick English accent and went in for scram and lam. She got to hanging around with a lot of mugs in a speak, gathering material for a novel. Well, the mugs didn’t know they were picturesque and thought she was regular until the barkeep put them wise. They got her into the back room to teach her a new word and put the boots to her. They didn’t let her out for three days. On the last day they sold tickets to niggers . . .2
I used to write lines like: the furrows of the field like the spaces between ribs and vertebrae / he
takes the plow blades
A mark or trace indicating the point of attachment of some structure that has been removed
My father says north of Prague
with our name.
He says, two brothers came together. If I ever
meet another Kubasta, call him cousin.
From French eschare or Greek; literally hearth, the mark of a burn
I am in the habit of adopting homes:
West on Hwy 73, 14 miles to Plainfield, a little hamlet off Interstate 39.
My words as trailmarkers to a missing homestead, a missing summer kitchen.
East on Hwy 21, 9 miles to Lohrville, a quarry boomtown littered
with names like Monacelli, Passarelli, Delaura . . . (there was a glass house
in full view of the big granite quarry, he could watch his bride all day)
The quarries left ragged holes, hundreds of feet deep. They fill with water, and the children swim, slipping on veined rock slick with algae, launching off lacerated cliffs, falling through. Divers bring up rusting equipment, bones, bodies. Each year someone is lost in the black water.
John says: Don’t ask those questions. It was a terrible time. No one wants to talk about it.
South on Hwy 22, Right onto YY, quick left to my brother’s house:
I call to check on his new foal, born the night before.
It happens, he says.
1 from Wallace Stevens, Adaiga
2 from Nathanial West, Miss Lonelyhearts
—C. Kubasta, Oshkosh, WI