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How Like Marriage is the Season of Flowers

Because I’d forgotten
I’d shoved that wrinkled bulb
into a slit of dubious soil last winter,
just as I’d lost sight of it
buried under a decade of rust and oil
in the garage we haven’t cleaned
since the summer our daughter
was born. Some seasons prove
more hazardous than others
and one wind-trashed night,
I groped for a stray cigarette
from the grime atop
the busted refrigerator we use to store
light bulbs and toilet paper,
slipped my fingers into a filthy halo
of booster seats
and nursing pillows,
formula bottles and plastic bathing tub
and pulled out a crumpled baggie
of bulbs. Now the garden gnome
winks through a lattice cross
of broad immaculate light,
so smug in his weird cone hat
and Santa coat, his bed
of broad conceptions: stigma and stamen,
the once frozen loam
having cracked like an egg,
the stone exterior unrolled,
the barracks collapsed
and out slithered this serpent
of a single red bloom
like a prisoner climbing the roof
of the impossible panopticon
and lighting a match to herself,
becomes a flag of fire
in the moon’s glowing lake. Goodnight!
Death had not dominion, after all. If Christ rose
no one really knows
how he managed to wade through
all that festering, flying from tomb
to feathered clouds, do they? Beauty needs no apology.
We could never explain
the crumbling citadel transformed
to Easter morning goody
basket--blue lace and tangerine
jelly beans, nor the scary bunny
heads my husband and I sometimes wore,
spitting bitter carrots
into the whites of each other’s eyes.
The garden is a Chagall
guarded by worms
in the vaults of subterranean ruins. The horses,
delirious from so long
in the desert of no water,
their mouths turn to mines
of glittering salt and make pictures.
A woman wakes and sees
a girl wandering the yard,
remembers hiding treasure once
and pretending to find it
as if for the first time, as if
pulling a bouquet from
the barrel of a hat, from slugs
and dirt, the miserable bottom:
your darkest places imaginable.


A Hole Opens Up in the Middle of the Day

And I pull myself out
by the ears of a dangling rabbit, by
my many-colored silks,
a spiral bleed of roses
tossed at the feet
of the sweating matador, dusty
in his black-sequined coat. Where
the sun beats down,
the crowd cheers
and a thin white handkerchief
flutters in the stands,
making a little breeze
for the child who watches the ring
from the shade of her mother's side,
bewitched by the muscular dance,
these near-death misses,
red cape swirl
lifting and falling
in the heat of Las Ventas, Madrid.


Dressed Up Like Holmes Falling Into a Glass Darkly

What was I looking for
all those Februarys ago,
lost in the cave of my parents’ garage, peering down
the lens of a mail-order microscope,
sex of blue milk
and simmered grasses, a blobby iridescence
smeared on five & dime slides. While
rafters swelled with foul-smelling vapors,
winter flexed its god-big muscles,
gray beams of fractured light demolishing
the clouds’ easy geometry,
cotton babes unswaddled by tempests,
their eyes poked through
into stunned recognition—windows
to star soot beyond. Watson, let’s not pretend
we aren’t chained to the past. The smartest sleuths in town
know it’s a spiral, not a circle
unlocking the skeleton path, the caverns
of looms—nymphs and burning honey
stitched in tempered gold—a hive
of purple bees. And I swear,
I swear in the future I won’t mention
that man in the corner,
his bottomless fonts
of whiskey, weary pieta
of a dead son draped
forever across his lap. How the scene begets
a thirsty daughter, this moony detective
with the jaws of a man
and a monocle raised to music
swelling in the fog. I’ve got my deerstalker cap,
my lily gloves, my brain wrapped tight
in a houndstooth coat, daggers
and revolvers tucked inside the membrane
folds, high—octane solutions
cradling my veins. And you,
trusty consort, right there reading the signs,
the cryptic case on cue—face of a clock,
strung from the Mother hip,
the heart that spins inside—all the beautiful murders
and numbered hands you point to,
saying, See here, Holmes,
we’ve all the time in the world.  


Michelle Bitting has published work in The American Poetry Review, Prairie SchoonerNarrative, the L. A. Weeklydiode, and others. Poems have appeared on Poetry Daily and as the Weekly Feature on Verse Daily. Her book Good Friday Kiss won the DeNovo First Book Award, and Notes to the Beloved won the 2011 Sacramento Poetry Center Award and received a starred Kirkus Review. 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 an active California Poet in the Schools. She holds an MFA in Poetry from Pacific University, Oregon, and is working on a PhD in Mythological Studies from Pacifica Graduate Institute.