by Lisa Fay Coutley
A dozen men are swinging hammers
outside my window & I want to fuck
not one. Maybe my neighbors will cliché
me—island of rock, graving dock, canary
forgotten in the world’s oldest coal mine.
Maybe my neighbors will simply stop
seeing me. I hardly see myself. As a girl
I never took the scissors to my own hair
in anger or wonder, not for all the hours
I spent staring into mirrors, making faces
& pretending that must be a better place
to exist. Rejection is never clean. Ask me
what I want most from life & I’ll try
to spell the smell of lilacs, sunned skin,
freshwater that won’t shipwreck anyone
who tries to drop anchor at my shore.
Once, I loved a man for nothing more
than his boots bent at the edge of my bed,
but who gives a shit anymore. Even sand
isn’t what it seems, all smashed glass
rendered less dangerous. This is what
pulverize means—love undoing us
to dust. It took just one year to forget
the dead language I struggled to revive
inside me, yet I’ve never forgotten how
to say handsome man. I’d like to say I could
recall strong woman, though in truth I never
knew. I want to tell you I’ve learned to be
less angry because I’ve mastered how to
swallow myself small. Now, I’m all swing
or shrink. The year I boxed love’s things
my body began its ritual of heat, waking
in bright burning knots. Tangled bouquet.
So much blood came & kept coming
the myth of me might say that I packed
handfuls of glass down my throat
& sat down with the hope of bleeding
this island out until nothing could
call it home.
Lisa Fay Coutley is the author of tether (Black Lawrence Press, April 2020), Errata (Southern Illinois University Press, 2015), winner of the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry Open Competition Award, and In the Carnival of Breathing (Black Lawrence Press, 2011), winner of the Black River Chapbook Competition. She’s received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and Sewanee Writers’ Conference, a Rona Jaffe scholarship to the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and an Academy of American Poets Levis Prize. Recent prose and poetry appears in AGNI, Blackbird, Brevity, The Cincinnati Review, Narrative, Passages North, Pleiades, and The Los Angeles Review. She is an Assistant Professor of Poetry & CNF in the Writer’s Workshop at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, where she coordinates the WRWS Reading Series and advises the student journal 13thFloor.