Vox Populi

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Lisa Fay Coutley | Shelter: Michigan

Ben says it’s like any other house 
except twelve men share two rooms 

in simple bunks not unlike barracks 
& every morning he must trudge 

the gauntlet of friendly, extended 
booze bottles bagged & begging

him not to focus on the fall leaves 
last-gasping en masse on the walk 

to the gas station where he’ll relieve 
himself & scrub his teeth with balled

paper toweling until his gums bleed
or half the Happy Birthday song. 

He wants me to circle yes or no  
because his life has become unsafe

& what he needs most is an ankle 
break woman who’ll open the fridge 

now & again so he can see the light 
still exists inside them both. I won’t 

tell him yesterday I lost a patch 
of hair on the top of my scalp 

but refuse to name it until I know 
if it’s not alone. Cryptic Crop Circle. 

Solar System in Bald. He wants me  
to believe he met Jesus in Memphis 

after his car went dead & he forgot 
& forgot & forgot to feed his dog. 

He has provided temporary refuge 
from rain & rape, he says, but why 

shouldn’t we be each other’s cover. 
Why not disguise the facts, adopt  

new identities, have each other’s 
backs. He promises to aim his gun  

at anyone who tries to harm a hair 
on my pretty little head. He can pet 

name me. Baby Great Lakes. Tiny 
Idea Cluster. Little Target Practice. 

Copyright 2020 Lisa Fay Coultey

Lisa Fay Coutley’s books include tether (Black Lawrence Press, 2020). She is the recipient of a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and Associate Professor of Poetry & Creative Nonfiction at the University of Nebraska Omaha Writer’s Workshop. 

8 comments on “Lisa Fay Coutley | Shelter: Michigan

  1. matthewjayparker
    August 30, 2022

    Wow. I especially like the pet names.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. vengodalmare
    August 29, 2022

    the word in italiano è “spiazzante”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. vengodalmare
    August 29, 2022

    How can you translate the word “displaceable” into English to say something that forces you or invites you out of your normal reading tracks?
    Great poetry, thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. loranneke
    August 29, 2022

    Such an absolutely original, taut, moving & haunting poem! Bravo!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Vox Populi
      August 29, 2022

      I agree. the poem captures the injustice in our society in very real and immediate terms.

      Liked by 1 person

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