At church camp, the summer before high school, the lifeguard—
He was blonde, shoulders
like he used them. We met
when we could, early evening
or before breakfast—by chance/never by chance on the beach path
cold with shade.
The edifice gives under its own weight, lain open. [The pretension
of edifice]. “Lain open”
to reveal lies, all lies.
Accused by four girls, two former campers. On the witness stand
he looked benign as lifejackets, hanging in a row. I imagined our meetings
safe, boat oars paint-peeling and waterlogged.
He used to push me off the raft. I climbed and half-fought
for his hands on my back again.
All lies –I’ve made this a better story in previous incarnations, claimed “Not just
underage. / He put himself into assholes, pushed their
faces into the sand.” It was the worst thing I could think of, but it’s not
true. Or I don’t think it’s true.
The truth disappeared in multiple drafts. Maybe
I was the girl watching him meet the other girls on the beach path. Maybe
I wrote my own story after others accused him. Maybe
he just wanted me off the raft, this puppy, love-sick and cloying.
But this was my first poem, picked and published by someone
I didn’t know: triumph. This is how eyewitnesses on the news feel –powerful
in front of the microphone, acting out their ever growing part.
The self I used to be
thought eating too much chicken
was a metaphor for desire, lust. I’d been reading too much
Jeanette Winterson. Now, I’ve been reading too much
of myself. Nabokov says “one cannot read
a book; one can only reread it.” Perhaps
one cannot read oneself either—only re-read, once years
have interfered, and we are not that person enough
I called him unctuous chicken grease, umami, kalamata olive, poison
green—the everyday made
terrible, irresistible. The present
is always insatiable because / it
never exists. [i]
Lines I disown:
“Kissing you is kettle cloth and burlap / then Japanese silk.”
“I am Dido’s pyre”
“begging the dog-growl from the root of his throat”
This “him” is a different “him.” I promise—I’m telling
the truth. I could tell he loved me
by the way he reduced me to sweating tangle of sheets. The places
he put himself are places
I cannot imagine anymore. I am that person
too much, even now.
None of these “him’s” survive today. Each eclipsed, rewritten, called
early work, preface, preparation. Men feel
the contours of a box, too, but they are told that box
is of their own manufacture, designed
to their specifications.[ii] I am sorry
for each box made, wrought, and pretended
as truth. I call my father today
and ask him if he’s OK with the book—there was one poem
I worried about. “Of course,” he said, “it’s all your poetic license”—but what
if some of those things are true—
I’ll pretend this is truer than earlier versions.
You pretend it’s ever growing
in front of a microphone. I am both appalled
and in love with my [former] reckless self.
—C. Kubasta, Fond du Lac, WI