Brian Builta, Civic Duty


Rosemary Bailey, WC 34



Civic Duty

The peace of whiskey on ice shatters as the sewer line clogs. Our sweet Italian guest in towel and damp cleanliness has flushed the day’s tacos and now the refuse refuses to go. With shabby skill and fumbling mitts, I perform sewer line surgery outside where it is raining and cool and wonder if this mild debacle has anything to do with my early voting. Did I vote for the wrong Teflon-coated candidate? Are those sound policies or was I fooled by the hair? I snap off the lids to the sewer line and gossamer chunks of tee pee and dookie flow into the rain-soaked lawn. The assortment of liquids is astounding. This seems a wasted buzz suddenly involved with so much sewage. I voted for a sputtering smokestack and now feel like a civic duty superhero. Attack ads ricochet off me like sermons off a strumpet. Still, this mangled world keeps ticking, keeps ceasing to cease. Whiskey, a type of unguent for shatterhood. I’m startled by my calmness as sewage continues to flow. This is the strenuous briefness: democracy, sewage, whiskey, sweet Italians and rain. I feel like another drink but instead turn off my wife and go to bed.

Brian Builta


Review by Massimo Fantuzzi

In my opinion, in these two poems [“Civic Duty” and “Ladies Throw Down Barbecue and More”], the real treasure is represented by what is not explicitly paraded. It’s in the space between stills and motions that I find depth and lucidity. Each gap between full stops and capital letters is a journey that we are invited to take. Each pause behind those unanswered questions and each loud capitalization come with a throbbing, an echo of camera/action/cut, which, if allowed to, truly shakes the ground we stand on, the ground we’ve built our homes on, our less and less comforting homes.


Review by Dave Mehler

This is socio-economic commentary and political satire at play and in tension with one another. Rather than bitter, Builta chooses humor for his satire. For example, through the logic the speaker intuits through the situation: because sewage is spewing onto the lawn out of the opened clean-out valve he questions whether this is a result and payback (?) due to early voting or the choice of candidate. Also subject matter and tone contribute, along with the repeated consonance throughout, all built around the s sound of sewer/sewage: this word appears six times but it seems like more because of a string of modifiers like these: sweet, shabby, skill, surgery, snap, soaked, seems, suddenly, so, sputtering, smokestack, superhero, ceasing, strumpet, strenuous. Well, you get the picture. But that’s only S sounds in the beginning of the line—there’s also the ones that appear internally or at the end of the word all of which reinforces the fun: peace, whiskey, ice, shatters, clogs—wait a minute—all of those are in the first line alone. Then he has these little dual repetitions like “refuse refuses” and “ceasing to cease,” with added appearances of playful diction like “gossamer chunks of tee pee and dookie?” That’s a nicer less foul way to talk about shit, but with an edge. He wants us to laugh not cringe. Toward the end it becomes unclear whether the sewage is literal or merely spewing from his “wife,” the TV? Apparently, the sweet Italian guest, who started the whole thing with her digested tacos, is considered only a mistress by the narrator? I don’t find this speaker any harder to relate to than our current cultural moment? He might even be a neighbor, co-worker, or friend?

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