Writers' Corner

Lisa Fay Coutley

2013 Poetry

Author's Statement

After learning that I'd been awarded an NEA fellowship, which I never dreamed I'd actually win, I hung up the phone and laughed for something like an hour, according to my fourteen-year-old son, who worried that I might have "lost it." A call like that gives you some reassurance that the path you decided to walk blindly down--in the hopes that another human will read something you've written and laugh, cry, discover with you--the path you've second guessed almost daily for a decade, was perhaps the right path after all. I feel so fortunate and supported, and I'm eternally grateful for the worry-free time I'll have next year to get back to doing what I love. Of course, my teenage boys are eternally grateful too. Now they can stop fighting over which one of them gets to eat next year. I joke, but really--this grant means so much. What a lovely gift.

Dear Morpheus--

Stop bringing her to this silent cinema
of sleep, where I'm forever disappointed,  

waiting for the dead to speak. Instead
of a voice, you make mute gestures

through a woman so young & healthy
I weep. I mourn her with my face

buried in the crook of her white sleeve
because down the hall she eats paint 

from my bedroom wall. Fleck by fleck,
drops them on her tongue & washes them 

with whiskey.               Oh, Morpheus--            

Let this be the sacrament of my small body:  
the girl who had to be carried from the bus,  

refusing to pledge allegiance without her mom. 
Let this be the moment she doesn't leave me

waiting, but the moment she takes me home
to the lovely body I thought was mine

to save. Give her back. Throw her over
this need. Let her be my breakwall. My firewall.

Recite the prayer of the white sweater all night
down my dark & narrow dream.

(first appeared in Seneca Review)

Lisa Fay Coutley is the author of In the Carnival of Breathing (Black Lawrence Press, 2011), winner of the Black River Chapbook Competition, and Back-Talk (Articles Press, 2010), winner of the ROOMS Chapbook Contest. Her poems have been awarded scholarships to the Bread Loaf and Sewanee Writers' Conferences, an Academy of American Poets Levis Prize, and have appeared recently in Seneca Review, Ninth Letter, Third Coast, Best New Poets, and on Verse Daily. She is a PhD candidate and poetry editor for Quarterly West at the University of Utah.

Photo by Lillian-Yvonne Bertram