Home > Poetry > Shelter: Michigan
Published: Mon Nov 26 2018
Salman Toor, Fag Puddle with Candle, Shoe, and Flag (detail), 2022. Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, N.Y. Photo: Farzad Owrang.
Shelter: Michigan

Ben tells me 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.

Lisa Fay Coutley is the author of tether (Black Lawrence Press, forthcoming 2020), Errata (Southern Illinois University, 2015), and In the Carnival of Breathing (Black Lawrence, 2011). Recent work appears in Narrative, AGNIThe Los Angeles Review, and 32 Poems. She is the recipient of an NEA Fellowship and is assistant professor of poetry in the Writer’s Workshop at the University of Nebraska Omaha. (updated 11/2018)

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