June 17, 2008

The Basement

A friend tells me on the phone she drank a glass of wine
one night and wrote, years and years ago, and the stuff

that bubbled out from her subconscious scared her so
she swore she’d never do that again. She was going to tell me

some story about Berryman but we had to get off the phone so I
never heard it, nor did I get a chance to tell her I wrote

half the stuff I’ve done drunk—at least by her yardstick.
But what should bubble up is the stuff from the subconscious

so I never really figured that out—why else would
you write poems if you weren’t trying to get downstairs

into the basement, where the sewage pipes are all
covered with dust and mouse shit more ancient than death

and the corners you poke around in are just as likely to reveal that
soft spot you always had for, say, pornography, to be the dead

body of your brother rotting with the lost ten-penny nails
and some rusty washers, rolls of solder strips underneath

the workbench? Or that rat that ran across the shadows—
isn’t that your father’s anger at everything that went wrong

in his life transformed into your own? That hammers your
fists on the desk at the littlest frustration and howls like a rabid dog

at your daughter who’s just bugging you for fun Can’t you see
that I’m angry?
as though that was some sort of accomplishment

to be proud of like the mitered box you made for your 4-H butterfly
project? Isn’t that bull snake that made one mistake to look

for cool in the basement but found its own private hell, that mother’s
hacked into bits with a garden hoe— the only time you remember her

coming down into the basement— enough to know she was killing
something that you didn’t even know yet what it might be? The bathroom

where father sneaked off to smoke cigarettes, and your brother poked holes
in the shower to spy on your sister? The cubbyhole where he stashed

his Playboys and half pints of gin you discovered as if by a miracle?
Isn’t this where your life began? Isn’t this where you found yourself?

—Greg Kosmicki

Posted by dwaber at 01:19 PM