Wednesday Jun 19

BittingMichelle Michelle Bitting’s third collection is The Couple Who Fell to Earth, named to Kirkus Reviews' Best Books of 2016. She has published poems in The American Poetry Review, Narrative, Prairie Schooner, The New York Times, Vinyl Poetry, Plume, Diode, the Paris-American, Green Mountains Review, Harvard Review (“Renga for Obama”) Thrush, Raleigh Review, AJP, Verdad, Fjords and others. Poems have appeared on Poetry Daily and Verse Daily, have been nominated for Pushcart and Best of the Net prizes. Visit her website here.


The Red Opera

I kept running outside
to check how high
the Spivea had grown,

dive-bombing my nose
into the asterisk clusters
that smelled faintly

of medicine and cake,
raspberry conicals
in breast-like mounds

the bees would not stop buzzing.

I kept wondering when
the next bomb would drop.

Should I keep running outside
to catch how fabulously

the fire and smoke
might volumize the horizon?

I kept wondering when someone
besides everyone I knew
could stop crying in the shadows.

Standing at the sink
in stunned silence,

listening to news
breaking over the suds and dishes.

We kept wiping our eyes
when the dinner guests
weren’t looking.

When would someone
make it stop,
this killing of beauty?

I had to keep reminding myself
we were riding this train together.

Where the flatcars
have no walls,

our bodies exposed
to the brutalist elements.

Skin peeled back,
naked, new creatures.

Our raw bones
and uncovered flesh,

the quick wind smarting
in blizzards and heat.

The dark made thicker,
our membranes thinner
as we passed through tunnels,

layers of epidermis
sheer as shaved fennel.

It became impossible to pray.

But you couldn’t help notice
the sprung doors
of the human aviary,

how with our cages left open,
a conference of hearts

fluttered in choirs
of flickering signals:

a red opera rising up.

People waved across the boulevard,
across stations
and airport waiting rooms,

spinning turnstiles
and Washington Square Park.

Even the Rose Bowl,
the county art museum
and Smithsonian Center,

up to the Rocky Mountain Highs
you could hear it
and along the Sweet Plains of Georgia.

Down, down, to the ocean boardwalks
and our bedrooms

where all the windows and doors
were blast wide open

filling the sky
with a plague of wings and songs.

Recipe for Disaster
But the child being born malicious stirs up the mania for storytelling
Gaston Bachelard

I learned to cook by trial and error
the same as I learned to live
running through the house
with scissors in my hand
opening books
to strange and random pages
a natural born pyro
I turned on the stove
my flimsy nightie poofed
to fly up in flames
a taste that’s hard to categorize
pumpkin pie and coriander
cumin ground to specks
a la modes of destruction
and since I never learned
to clean up right
when I lost the sealing caps
all the aromas flew out
like bags of godly winds
my sailor pages flared
loose as you’d expect
a pension for flavors
foraged at night
and just enough unhinged
to suit a heretic’s tongue: Chaos
your parasol spinning
over my left shoulder
like a Black Sun
when day refuses to lift
its lead curtain
one’s wings fly nowhere but down
to dirt and ash
I was born with the right ingredients
flecks in my father’s eyes
the bitter, broken grains
floating up from dreams
sunken fleets of the girls I am
gathering in memory
I can almost see them now
hailing me from the crags
their outstretched hands
moon glow pearls
kept in my crippled pocket
because my fingers laced
become a steeple shape: song
and every voice turned inside out
crowned in unison
then dashed against rocks
undoing flesh and bone
the pleasure of seeing blood
of tracking red threads
serpents in The Garden
that lead to The Book
before The Beginning: womb,
crevice & the warmest placenta halos
everything longed for
in a buried stream
in underworlds of hope
where heroes are naturally born
and how could I not eat that up?