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.