Earth in the eye

Letter to America by Lisa Fay Coutley

One Poem

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Letter to the Aftermath

There was a time before this screen
though our bodies only remember it
like a room with a wall where once
there were portholes. Light no longer
falling over some lovers slouched
shoulders in the tub. I made a garden
& still I wasn’t happy—one hundred
sunflowers & the only screaming
I heard was mine. A hole, core deep.
A detonation waiting. The morning
I felt most lost from myself I could
no longer hear my plants in bloom.
I erased my Someday list. Clouds were
just clouds. I tried to remind myself
crows won’t eat their dead. Instead
they gather around a body in silence
or raucous. Whether you believe they
grieve there, sometimes moments
sometimes days, or you believe they
gather data to avoid their own demise
says everything your family needs
to know about you. I believe Earth
will be the last mammoth to flower,
who decided one chance to weapon
her beauty is simply not enough.
What if that is the only story
we have to tell you, the voice
of our planet so quiet inside us
we could never see her breathing
from space is a heart beating
& it was always going
to be too late.




Lisa Fay CoutleyLisa Fay Coutley is the author of tether (Black Lawrence Press, April 2020), Errata (Southern Illinois University Press, 2015), winner of the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry Open Competition Award, and In the Carnival of Breathing (Black Lawrence Press, 2011), winner of the Black River Chapbook Competition. She is the recipient of a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, and is an assistant professor of poetry and creative nonfiction in the Writer’s Workshop at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

Header image by Aleksandar Mijatovic, with portions provided by NASA, courtesy Shutterstock. Photo of Lisa Fay Coutley by Randy Mattley is the first online literary journal of place, publishing award-winning literature, art, editorials, and community case studies since 1998.