top of page

Michelle Bitting: California Poets Part 3, Four Poems

Michelle Bitting

June 25th, 2021

California Poets: Part III

Michelle Bitting

Four Poems

A Poet Embraces the Darkest Hour I’ll gather my berries and cheese, Ziplock containers to open at work, aromas unfolded one green stem at a time until the bouquet overwhelms my hand of spilled beans. Because facades are always a strong point until pen hits the page. Because a house changes into which a guest has entered. And I know what sneaks and festers under rock solid fear eventually turns up mud and maggots. Anyway. When clouds clear and rays are ripe to spotlight truth, snakes hide under boulders made of gold, casting their manly shadows. While they smile, take the world for a ride and murder it. The most important time? Tuesday, kettle to stove, turning the love covers down as another shit show’s poised to begin. My deal’s already sealed on a life of wandering, so I make peace as Hades enters each inky ear, vision maps tattooed in black. I know it’s worth it, my shattering mind, my blown glass feather. I walk backwards composing lines as lights prance around new looms, silver scripts I sew by hand trailing each shiny, constellated seam, prick of dust and a finger slick of blood dropped one cable, one stitch (silence never protected me) one century at a time.

Manger Crib, trough, sleigh, coffin, shepherds slogging through red dust, their sandals kicking up a ruddy cataclysm starring palm trees overhead. This was in Los Angeles where the circle of players featured a bereft crèche, no babe front and center. Perhaps they were practicing divination, or holding for the light, strands of bright hay scrolled for signs around their grime-ringed toes, random ghost gold tossed—my mind’s brittle grass. I will play my own savior. No midnight clear for navigating pebbles underfoot. No foraging threads to nest a head’s waning fruit. I’d like my heart to rise and walk from its cage now. I’d like the ones who play it safe to shut the fuck up. Birds and mystery branches gleam in the final stages of rubedo, just before horizons bend and my brain unrolls a primitive dementia. My cup runneth with rain, sweet and simple as forgiveness when melancholia clears. I wonder about unconditional love, though, if I’m even capable, the grace of babies left on borders of night and day, who nonetheless say: Come in from the cold. Here is the book you forced me to read, remember? Here, the pages sewn in blue to an imaginary womb. Take and eat. Manger— from Old French mangier. Well, chew on this: in the endless loop of inns where I come from—Behold, I stand at the door and knock—shouldn’t there always be room for one more?

My Body, My Choice, My Squirrel You think that whistling isn’t meant to quicken your step towards nothingness, your boots freaky with flower muck, fur, stomped clover —meanwhile—oblivion glistening honey-like through highway rumble, cracker law, stony- whites, the not-so distant quiver of a hot sliver up your spine? Every day’s a maze to slam your face to, keeping time, eye to the end, relishing the race anyway like this cirque du soleil squirrel half slung from the railing, her aerial teeth buried in a silo of swinging seed, sweet helmet feed—yes—she’ll risk death, the long drop down through pine & needled mist. Who wouldn’t brave it for the body’s free gravity? Nose to swaying glut grave she’ll wing it when the platform snaps and plummets. When wind gusts and flimsier things grovel, all for the glint of sunflower, corn, millet minted in mind, gums, rights, she’ll do it, muscling canyon floor when it rises up to nix her and you, goddess, keep on gnashing, you stick that damn landing.

There is, at last, the finding of the center... Flood tide of ill fortune rising, we spend our days skirting the edge, bent backs gripped in the single seater as we lean in to keep the cart from tipping. There’s no knowing the speed we’ll gain, the steepness or drops, how the wheels could fly off any second like shingles from a roof when the wind whips up. Or the gradual sheering of tread until one day metal plinks through matter like coins ripping a watery veil, tossed to the fountain floor and suddenly a whole family sunk, side-eyed silhouettes staring up from the mossy bottom, green clouds suctioning our cheeks’ thin copper. It can feel like a fist smashed down, anvil cracking shapes in half like the crazed husband at that L.A. party whose bald knuckles bashed the host into his dead mother’s beloved dinette, breaking it, convinced he’d fucked his wife on the sly. True or not, the whole night ruined. The guests stunned and helpless nibbling their meatballs made tangier by splintered glass and a ghost mom moaning in the vents. A severance, reckoning—fate a fulsome judge, farm mistress with enough biscuits in her apron to satisfy the herd before they ride off and hogtie the horizon. Eventually hanging for it. Eventually the whip falling and throne split, smack down the middle where you need to be strongest, where the songbird flies from, free, if it’s meant to sing.

Author Bio:

Michelle Bitting was short-listed for the 2020 Montreal International Poetry Prize, won the 2018 Fischer Poetry Prize, Quarter After Eight’s 2018 Robert J. DeMott Short Prose Contest, and a fourth collection of poetry, Broken Kingdom won the 2018 Catamaran Prize and was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best of 2018. In 2021, her manuscript Nightmares & Miracles won the Wilder Prize and will be published by Two Sylvias Press in 2022. She has poems published in The American Poetry Review, Narrative, The Los Angeles Review, Vinyl Poetry, The Paris-American, Love’s Executive Order, The Raleigh Review, Green Mountains Review, Plume, Tupelo Quarterly, and others. Poems are forthcoming in Air/Light, The Night Heron Barks, Sugar House Review, Pine Hills Review. Recently, she was a finalist in the 2020 Reed Magazine Edwin Markham Prize, as well as the 2019 Sonora Review and New Millennium Flash Prose contests. Michelle is a Lecturer in Poetry and Creative Writing at Loyola Marymount University and Film Studies at U of Arizona Global.


bottom of page