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  • Self-Portrait as Pyrocumulonimbus, and: Driving Up-Canyon With My Two Teen Sons
  • Lisa Fay Coutley (bio)

Self-Portrait as Pyrocumulonimbus

Don't ask me why men want from this     peculiar pulse, skipping cul-de-sacs             & riverbeds. I eat like a woman

             ravenous until the forest is a field       standing black with javelins. I catapultinto clear sky. Because God loosed me

from that better wound, braiding anger       up my spine, & between ground & cloud           bellowed the flame, they crave.

             They say destruction as if they don't       want to follow. Don't study how I hoverabove them, cracking my ribs apart,

peeling lightning from my thighs. They pray       for my unruly heart, may it be their weapon.               They misunderstand. My desire

             is air, threading vengeance       into the dress I'd wear if I wokeeach morning in a bed half slept in,

but I don't sleep. I wander. I err. I lunge       into ductwork & become the bedroom,               the porch swing, the yellow grass

               around the concrete deer. I keep        hoping for a day when burn won't breedash, & we can return home, devoured [End Page 42]

by hunger neither mine nor theirs, but fear       unleashed refuses the chain. The fruit               is my miracle is my palm is my water

             effacing the blaze. I would surrender       my mouth to rain if they didn't beg from methe bite-bruise on both shoulders again, again. [End Page 43]

Driving Up-Canyon With My Two Teen Sons

Lisa Fay Coutley

or Boys I & II as I've come to call them (or swear       at them) this year, laying the fencework of broken             bottles all around me, even now, as we push

faster up a blinding canyon road. Look, boys, here       even crag reaches straight for the sun (& I can't             help but tell them we each want to burn);

look at how the aspens stand together from one,       long root, but they'll never touch each other               above ground; look at the single spruce

that grew back-against-a-cliff-wall, facing only road       (as I'm speeding up a lane that snakes to nowhere             I can see). This, you'll never understand.

Like the way I arrange sunflowers on the coffee table       in our new home. Have you noticed how they reach             for sun or soil, where there's only ceiling,

only vase. This, kids, is the year we'll write our history       of black ice & snow. Here, each of you hold             a wiper blade, & I'll accelerate, eyes closed. [End Page 44]

Lisa Fay Coutley

Lisa Fay Coutley is the author of In the Carnival of Breathing, winner of the Black River Chapbook Competition (Black Lawrence Press, 2011) and Back-Talk, winner of the ROOMS Chapbook Contest (Articles Press, 2010). A doctoral fellow and poetry editor for Quarterly West at the University of Utah, she has been awarded scholarships to the Bread Loaf and Sewanee Writers' Conferences, an Academy of American Poets' 2012 Larry Levis Prize, chosen by Dana Levin, and her recent poems appear in Seneca Review, Third Coast, The Journal, Hayden's Ferry Review, Best New Poets, and on Verse Daily.