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C. Kubasta

Mark Yourself Safe

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At the Congress Hotel, we have hotel congress & you say
things fall through, mean & sharp – I picture
interlocking cheese graters, a round mandoline, the metal
of cylinder pot lights not quite hidden
in the lobby ceiling. peculiar sheen. more painful
if the blades dull. I say
don’t forget the toiletries, opened & half-empty, already
used, cheap to begin with. even though not what you really need,

what you forgot. anything can be useful – here – everything
is useful. hotel beds that aren’t anyone’s. sheets
whitened from overbleaching, so the chlorine-smell stays
in nostrils for the first few
cigarettes after. Exit the lobby with innocuous
words made strange by the tongue. Re-enter the world of touch.


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My father writes about his tubes: the one
from the kidney to the bladder, the one
that makes its way out. He is learning to use
email, the trickiness of tone, how to craft
subject lines. Vast improvement since the unfortunate

“I have cancer” missive, delivered with a shrug. This one
tagged “Today I learned a lot about kidney stones,” the message
full of details: a log of times and pain levels, a description
of the little screen used to catch it, the crystalline edges
to be analyzed. At the ER, during the scan, they are able to watch
its movement, but have lost the larger one that measured

nine millimeters, the one they were unable to zap & pulverize; it’s
gone, disappeared, as if it never was.

To kill two birds, a professor of biology & biblical literature
points out how human males lack a baculum, how scripture
lies to us: the story of Adam’s rib taken to create Eve. He writes

the Hebrew tzela can mean rib, or support beam. We can lay
our bodies down, male & female, count the bony spines
under skin, two by two. The professor suggests the reference

was a “circumlocution” – perhaps we Eves made of supporting
structures, some osseous matter disappeared, as if it never was.

When interviewing a victim, be aware that inconsistencies
may be an effect of trauma. Victims may be unable to give a log
of times and pain levels. They may speak in outbursts, conflicting
statements, non sequiturs, circumlocutions. Or they may not speak

at all, not then. Perhaps you once called something out when touched,
something you don’t – can’t – remember. Something you won’t repeat here.

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