Lake Prediction

Lisa Fay Coutley

We know California will take it the hardest: losing
                    palm trees is never easy. No one will speak

of the redwoods. As a community, we’ll fold
                    & unfold our sweaters, pack night

bags with the last of our peaches. We’ll wait.
                    We’ll breathe but think of it only

when smoking. Eventually, the telephone poles
                    won’t hold, & we’ll call a desert a desert

again. No one will bless the faucets or pray
                    for hailstones to halve like human eyes,

so the baptism by thistle will go unnoticed. It will be
                    easier that way—to say no one was watching.

Nalgene bottles will go fast & flasks even faster.
                    By night, some will rediscover their hunger

for another hunt, so others will become prey, evading
                    brandings, shackles, open roads. We’ll trellis

mountains in groups, using fish bones for cairns, & when
                    dirt storms over us a second time, we’ll hope

for locusts. A woman will claim she’s seen trumpet vine
                    covered with golden husks in North Dakota.

We’ll wait. No one will bless her pocket. No one
                    will pray for a stranger’s empty shell.

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© Randy Mattley

Lisa Fay Coutley is the author of tether (Black Lawrence Press, 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. Her poems have been awarded fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Sewanee Writers’Conference, a Rona Jaffe scholarship to the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and an Academy of American Poets Levis Prize. Recent work appears/is forthcoming in AGNIBlack Warrior ReviewBrevity,Copper NickelMissouri ReviewNarrative, and Pleiades. She is an AssistantProfessor of Poetry & Creative Nonfiction in the Writer’s Workshop at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, where she advises the student-run journal and coordinates the fall reading series.

"In tether, a spacecraft of a book superbly conceived and assembled, Lisa Fay Coutley engineers both recovery and healing in poems that swerve emotionally between the landing bays of grief, longing, and wonder. A bright hunger constellates around these poems, but so too the immensities of love. Tether is a burning inquiry into the miracle of being here on earth and what keeps us fastened to each other, for better or worse."
—Major Jackson

"Tether is a book of distances and intimacies, of letters never sent and dream talks and delayed communiques, It is a study of distance between us, between an astronaut and a poet, between lovers, between ourselves and each other, ourselves and ourselves. 'We are the beached boat / with a hole in its hull' admits the poet. Each of us, even as 'baby in a womb is a cloud.' And yet there is so much love. And yet, everything that happens to us, happens for a purpose. And when one turns worthy, a giant squid washes ashore.It is this knowing, this insight into our distances (of years, of geography, of a space of a single day) here that I find compelling: '& how far / must you back away / from yourself / to see / yourself / as the Astronaut / sees/Earth.' Beautiful work."
—Ilya Kaminsky

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