Who hasn’t declared in the echo-chamber of herself,
I am the kind of person who falls in love easily,
smells magnolias, loves a good steak?
On the outside looking in, the mind as mentor
is always a few paces ahead of the sluggish self,
goading it to be identifiable. But if the dalai lama
is right, I no more cohere or inhere than a handful
of feathers dropped from a rocket. I am no more
than the remains of a thousand thousand days
at the bottom of a cup, my life. All this suffering
is the lie of the self metastasizing, as lies do.
His Holiness tries not to mock but it does seem silly
to believe in a self set apart and waiting for me
to be born like a golden note waiting to be hummed.
He says peace be without you. These hands are nervous,
more tentacle than feather, and my mind won’t be quieted
from its irritable tugging on the self to be. In the beginning
was an emptiness to be filled and the emptiness
was with me, and the emptiness was me.
In the Koran, Allah breathes life into his mind,
heart, eyes, arms, hands, stomach, legs, feet,
and what does the new man say? I am hungry.
And Adam to Yahweh: I am lonely.
And in the first written English word, keel,
I hear a mighty ship groan and bang against its moorings,
and its captain saying, I am small; may this keel
cut through the dark waters of our monstrous ignorance,
splitting the world open like fruit.
From the high road my life is an old house,
with small windows on its jutting prow. It rides
one hill and one hill alone night and day.
Inside my own life I am a bird
in a cage dangling over space, listing
side to side in the wind, which is why
on most days I stay inside looking in.
Leigh Anne Couch has published a chapbook, Green and Helpless (Finishing Line Press), and a full collection, Houses Fly Away (Zone 3 Press), as well as poems in many magazines including Western Humanities Review, Shenandoah, Cincinnati Review, Salmagundi, Cutthroat, Gulf Coast, and Pleiades (forthcoming). Now a freelance editor, she edited for many years at Duke University Press and the Sewanee Review. She lives in Tennessee with writer Kevin Wilson and their sons, Griff and Patch.