I’m lucky to have
this bistro stool and table, the kids
at school, time before market and shuttling
to lessons, The Office Depot
for Pink Pearl erasers, colored chalk.
Even better would be
to score that awesome residency,
a room by the sea in a dead movie star’s house,
far from the hiss and grind of baristas
shoveling beans, steaming rush hour milk,
Rufus Wainwright crooning on hidden loop
inside buckling walls. I could laugh
or slit my meaningless wrists
not that it’s funny thinking about
last year’s residency pick, the Persian poet
whose wife lost her head
to a fascist regime, really,
what do I know of suffering?
If there were times wandering
the mall, sobbing into my fries
I thought of Paris, running free
from debt, sick children,
a stressed-out tryst, so what?
In the stubbled turret of the Hotel Esmeralda
I’d disappear, send smoke signals
up my rickety flue. They’d shoot past
Notre Dame, over ancient
hobbled streets, a disembodied moon
and still the gargoyles frozen
to their indifferent haunches
would grimace back, unmoved.
In the Mining Shaft
The ladder down is rickety
and swoons, each rung a bent bow
under heel. The air thickens;
its black dream seethes. Mansion
of many dooms, chained doors
quicken, haunted, rupture breath
as the lamp-heart flickers, a yellow bird
swaying in sync. I don’t know
what I’m looking for, only know
it is more precious
than coal or gold. Some days
I think I won’t clock out,
won’t heed the weakening canaries,
resurrect or compose myself
in that cold, dim light. I’m lost
if I am anything. Deaf
to whistles, the land-lark cry, click
of my empty lunch pail,
its skull licked clean.
Blue yoga ball and mat in tow,
soft spool of boom-box cello
draping hospital drab with Bach,
I sighed and chanted through the tepid cramps
but when the hellish labor hit
I screamed for shots: Demerol, I got,
HMO protocol to stand down pain.
The next hour, a Jimi Hendrix acid trip:
purple haze of morphing faces, gloves,
green masks and rubber hands
zoomed in and out of focus,
my husbands’ oozing eyeballs
wet with worry, the blurred white shape
of mother scurrying in the background.
Someone shouted Push!
and the final gears engaged,
the pelvic elevator blooming,
my baby’s head galumphing
through the ravaged pit,
the strangling chute, heralded
by a sphincter blast of feces
from my sprung and trumpeting bowels
and we cried “Welcome to the world!”
As memory brushes its sequins
under the desert’s
I pray with a monk’s fever
and stitch an austere habit
from the calico
of your eyes
that no longer watch
but wing like clouds
over the trembling mesa.
No way to scour
from your sky’s eternal rooms
or the tempered rock—
ghosting into gone.
Michelle Bitting has work published or forthcoming in The American Poetry Review, Prairie Schooner, Narrative, Rattle, River Styx, Crab Orchard Review, diode, Linebreak, the L. A. Weekly and others. Poems have appeared on Poetry Daily and as the Weekly Feature on Verse Daily. Thomas Lux chose her full-length manuscript, Good Friday Kiss, as the winner of the DeNovo First Book Award and C & R Press published it in 2008. Her book Notes to the Beloved won the 2011 Sacramento Poetry Center Award and was published in 2012. Michelle has taught poetry in the U.C.L.A. Extension Writer’s Program, at Twin Towers prison with a grant from Poets & Writers Magazine, and is proud to be an active California Poet in the Schools. She holds an MFA in Poetry from Pacific University, Oregon. Visit her at: www.michellebitting.com.