Michelle Bitting

Touched

You’ve got that half-crown
of raw silk daisies
with the sun-poked centers
wrapped around your head again,
sparks and ribbons streaming
the lashes of winged creatures
sketched into a blue journal
you always carry. I don’t know how
we got so lucky
to say we know you well when
clearly you are from somewhere else,
wherever extraterrestrials blossom,
dotting forests
like the white rabbit pages you inhabit,
like magic mushrooms, every surface
your dark pen sprouts its ink.
But I’m convinced that,
aside from enough chicken nuggets and fries,
(which is pretty much all you ate
the first twelve years of your life)
enough soft garments, a sturdy roof
and fat blankets
to shield the night’s cruelest breeze,
the greatest gift
a being may be born with
is to arrive a little touched, antenna
like tiny organic blades
stationed inside the ears and eyes
and hands, which, I suppose
implies a kind of fierce fragility,
a looney willingness
to be opened and receive,
to allow the earth’s cosmic squirming
to current your knuckle bones
and throat calling back
to that strange, unearthly divide.
What the great St. Vincent Millay meant
in one of her finer, broken moments
when she said: God, I can push the grass apart
and lay my finger on thy heart
.

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Escape (Fugue State #3)

I was wiping the sharpest corners of myself clean away,
all recognizable features, erasing a learned percentage
so the nothing me might emerge. I mean that
more than energetically, more than the kelvins necessary
to revive a childlike memory of riding seatbelt-less
in the back of a sky blue station wagon, the Kodachrome sea
passing by in slide-show sections of the rear glass
or my glances forward at the flawed and beautiful faces
who’d made me. Innocent. It’s all washed out
with the tide now. I’ll let insects stake my elegies from here.
Even the silverfish showed up to wave their antenna,
scurrying out from under the cat’s kibble dish. My naked heel
does nothing but plant itself on bathroom tile and watch,
like my eyes know Nirvana when they reel from it, random glimpses
that set the mind’s basement ablaze. At this point in history,
anything could happen. As usual. Freedom snaps on camouflage
playing hide and seek down dangerous corridors. Vintage street
fronts suddenly burst their pink Bougainvillea brains
in my reveries alongside grave, crumbling hollows and Roman-like
porticos, the faint aroma of zest drizzle from the scraped knees
of oranges. I’m awake and streaming coffee, strong and dark
as ten Arabian Nights. If that’s what’s left, so be it. Something
fluent and other-worldly’s afoot, menacing as dreams seized
and shaken into the organic matter of a letter-lined valise.
We’ve called a new guard in as bodies of wanderers toss
their last sheets to the bitterest onscreen winds. Monuments fall,
the people weep. So long, stones. Hello, fuzzy cities.
I’ll know I’ve arrived when sirens serenade me to sleep.

 


Michelle Bitting’s latest collection is The Couple Who Fell to Earth (C & R Press, 2016), named a Kirkus Review Best Books of 2016. She has poems forthcoming or published in The American Poetry Review, American Journal of Poetry, Prairie Schooner, Narrative, The New York Times, Vinyl, Plume, the Paris-American, Fjords, Tupelo Quarterly and others. Her poems have appeared on Poetry Daily and Verse Daily. Her book Good Friday Kiss won the DeNovo First Book Award and Notes to the Beloved won the Sacramento Poetry Center Book Award. She has won awards from Glimmer Train, the Beyond Baroque Foundation and has been a finalist for the Poet's & Writer's Magazine California Exchange, the Rona Jaffe Foundation, the Julia Peterkin, and Rita Dove poetry awards.