Love in the Language of Aviation

In which there exists no X or Y & Z
is for zoning & zeroing-in on the general
calculation of failure used to map our safety,

but let’s face it: little is more fragile than this
act of juggling glass & metal along a false
horizon. Takeoff is something we must do

blind. What can hearts know of houses or road
signs needed for dead reckoning when traveling
at speeds the dirty side can never handle. Tension

means to grip firmly the control column. Caging
prevents the susceptibility of damage. Caution.

Warning. Emergency. Distress is the same

in every brittle language. Love is the coffin
corner: the heart, reaching maximum altitude
& top speed:: the moon, raising its blade

in a part of the sky you hadn’t expected. Without
ballast, without static wicks, without calculating
true air speed, we barrel-roll forward, all hands

& knees, bracing. Up here, furthest upstream

of a moving object, what we cannot see of bow
& stern, we hear. Let it be less a snap or crack

than a boom when the waves mangle themselves
faster than normal toward us. We know the shock,
abrupt, its energy dissipating quickly. Takeoffs

equal landings, we hope, though we can never be
sure the earth wants us back. May we embrace no
failsafe, no reverting to home, no direct course.

Let our landings come through thunder & snow.
Let this rabbit roll us rough down a river of stone.


What Have You

Down here—forever projecting—
signs for signs for a sign for a woman

who kisses against the knife, but no one
sees her anymore. My son’s the fist inside

the fist he’s shaking at the rest of the world.
So on. So forth. Pocked hearts, not even

bodies broken enough to be dragged. Dumb
rugs over bald floor. Between us the clouds

are being torn apart by hands bare & neither
more nor mine. Distance isn’t the word we

mean if objects are always already absent.
What have you? What have you done makes

more sense. What have you done for me
lately doesn’t make him laugh. What have I

done, he wants to know. Him. One of two
choices I made to hold change in the world.


What have you now? I accuse the puppy
               & his boy responds—because desire
                              Mom, because hunger—as if

he, too, could chew a couch cushion.
               I live here, with a head not made
                              for hats, in blizzard country

where I accidentally slam the shovel
               against the asphalt & the dog
                              barks & starts searching

for the other him & the other me. As if
               another us could be somewhere else
                              where we sound better,

happier, full. My son says because desire,
               hunger, fifteen years already on Earth—
                              this great gift he’s certain we have

wasted & can never repair—words mean
               worse than nothing if we’re thoughts
                              unable to share pain

& wonder. What have you now to say,
               Mother, I ask myself, as I shove
                              snow from an end to an edge

of dirt, bracing myself to throw, a language
               so old—what have you?—taunting
                              me, the puppy arching, choking

on a chunk of anything, & I reach for a treat
               from my pocket to dislodge it, thinking good
                              boy sounds so much like goodbye.


Blue Sky Thinking

& who among us isn’t magicked
               into being, & what isn’t written
                              into the mind’s folds

like mushrooms to the touch. The king
               of clouds is interested in nothing
                              but clouds, which is uphill

work & surging like a wave. Why
               should anyone agree that this
                              endless succession of cloud-

less days would be boring? We reach
               & reach & do nothing but burn.
                              Tell me to pay attention

to what’s happening above, & I’ll show you
               a woman cut in half by a window.

                              No matter. Fog is only light

scattered, the way a silencer makes
               room behind a bullet. Food
                              prepared from fish

is just fish. This mind, this blue day, sky
               full of galoshes & rain, this curtain
                              I never stop pulling. I envy

the tree its last curve of snow, the cloud
               its slip of ice, simple


Lisa Fay Coutley is the author of Errata (Southern Illinois University Press, forthcoming 2015), winner of the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry Open Competition, and In the Carnival of Breathing (Black Lawrence Press, 2011), winner of the Black River Chapbook Competition. Her poetry has been awarded a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, scholarships to the Bread Loaf and Sewanee Writers’ Conferences, and an Academy of American Poets Levis Prize. Recent and forthcoming publications include Kenyon Review, Gulf Coast, Crazyhorse, and Poets & Writers. Coutley completed her PhD at the University of Utah and is an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing-Poetry at Snow College in Utah.