C. Kubasta

A Left / Shoe

for Carmen


My nephew asks: Is this an old forest?


Here along the Niagara escarpment, this second-growth forest

is hemlock and white cedar; the birch are slowly dying. The ground

springs, under conifer needles and carpet moss.


My brother says: Imagine this before the Europeans brought their worms.


He means the first-growth, cut over. The way leaf mold and needles

must have blanketed the limestone and dolomite. The relentless

roil of those worms, from the east

here to the middle west.


History’s written from what can be found;

what isn’t saved

is lost, sunken and rotted, eaten

by earth.1


Cancer cells

like undersea anemones, mottled skin blooms,

and today we name:


Eisenia hortensis: the perfect digester.

Rhabdomyosarcoma: the most common soft tissue tumor in children.


This was your grandfather. And this

his son, who washed the father’s car with steel

wool, leaving a delicate lace of raw metal. And this

is the only story you’ve ever been told. These contagions

passed down, silently, without benefit of narrative,

these family ties you haven’t got.


A one-sided correspondence

is a house without windows, a left

shoe, a pair of spectacles, smashed.


Underneath a thin veneer,

the skin hides all. Cells coalesce, burgeon.


And this is a picture of your brother, who for some years you pretended hadn’t been.

For years, no stories to tell; but the seed buried deep keens for the sky,

bursting through layers of willful forgetting. The vegetal metaphor

is memory, and death, and family estranged.


Memory and death and family estranged; it is perfectly easy

to love you, to see what’s worth keeping: like the stories,

and the anger, and the photographs, and the knowing,

which you haven’t got.

1. all italics from “The Prodigal Daughter” Jill Lepore

Kubasta experiments with hybrid forms, excerpted text, and shifting voices –her work has been called claustrophobic and unflinching. 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, Stand, The Notre Dame Review, Tinderbox Poetry Review and Lemon Hound, among other places, and she writes a regular column for The Rain, Party & Disaster Society on teaching, writing and reading. A Lovely Box (Finishing Line Press) won the 2014 Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets Chapbook Prize. All Beautiful & Useless (BlazeVOX) is her most recent book.
She currently teaches English and Gender Studies at Marian University, in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. She lives with her beloved John, cat Cliff, and dog Ursula. Check out her website.