Michelle Bitting


Writing poetry and all that’s required to make a serious go of it gets complicated if, say, you are trying to raise children and maybe even earn a bit to help put food on the table. The life of a mother and life separate from that, both provide worthy subject matter. Often there are expectations. Often one finds oneself sitting in a café surrounded by male screen and novel writers, happy to be accepted as “one of the guys” but wondering why the hell there aren’t more women tapping away at keyboards. Sometimes one writes what she can and then dashes off to the “all important” parent meeting at the school. And sometimes she doesn’t, she just sits there and keeps on writing.



Let’s Go Jungle!

Is the name of the game we’re playing.
We’re in a box in an arcade at a pier,
photo booth black curtains on either side
which means people walking by
will see only torsos, our legs and bent knees,
my son’s hands on the triggers
while mine feed quarters into the slot.
This is virtual survival, scrambling the ruins
of an unnamed jungle, tearing it up in jeeps.
This is our life of autism on a Friday
with no friends to call and hours to fill.
The crumbling pyramids, strangling vines.
The brutal dailies, impromptu script,
the ugly and beautiful movements,
near-miss catastrophes. On screen,
gargantuan tarantulas attack
our bumbling avatars. Rat-a-tat-tat,
my son’s thumbs pummel red buttons
and the green arachnid’s inners go splat.
Mock explosions, machine gun spray
deafen our private cave. Then giant toads
lunge with gaping mouths
and my mind wanders. Where are we?
Is this faux Vietnam or Venezuela?
What if he lives with me forever?
Am I his mother
struggling to be a poet
or a poet
struggling to be his mother?
How many plagues can this game launch
before I run out of quarters
and if we slay all the beasts
how long before we reach the sacred tomb?


The Prodigal Wife Returns

Home at last from the shore and everyone clapped,
the children greeting me, maws wide,
rows of permanent teeth ablaze,
their mouths pried open crypts of alabaster enamel
like resurrected Jesus, his spotlight robes
flung in a blinding flood of white. So happy they were,
every small thing a celebration. Even the teakettle
steamed on the stovetop inside its Calphalon belly
minus twist of knob and Wolf Range flame. My mind

was a valentine, February’s pin-up: glossy, buxom,
waxed within an inch of its lush nude life,
there in a garage of broken jalopies. My mind
in a red dress: skin tight with sequins,
every thought a coconut stuffed in its tufted brassiere.
Think of the milk when those babies cracked!
Here, kitty, kitty. Come suck the moist sugars
of higher learning, the sweet sticky trickle
I visit like an office drunk, afternoons,
nipping scotch from a desk drawer flask.

How else survive the parade today in this café,
the mind-numbing twitter of the stupid mommies
making plans to shop out Fashion Island? Bombs away,
I say! If only to be born caring less, caring only for the hunt,
the wordy cartographer. She’ll open the chest,
unleash burgeoning treats. Find the word and the word
is Deliverance. It shall be hers, and hence, all that matters.


In the Gardens of Esalen
(Ode to a Husband)

From the shady Eden
of a celadon umbrella
I can vow to emulate
the behavior of water.
I can watch the giant sprinklers
backbend for poppies,
genuflect for roses
like a woman in silver lame
doing yoga in the sun. Because
there is no wisdom like beauty
and here it is dirt cheap,
I’ll take a seat in the dust
near a carved stone Buddha
holding court for a brood
of young succulents,
and I’ll kiss your toes
in my mind
for staying home with the kids,
for slapping peanut butter onto bread,
the soft slices touched together
like palms in prayer.
No one knows
how hard it can be
and I’m sorry for the times
grinding coffee in the kitchen
you slipped a hand
up my shirt and I flinched.
As if your fingers, stray dogs,
had wandered onto something
private, sacred ground,
verboten land. Darling,
the stem of my love
grows tougher with time
even as the wind plays havoc
with my delicate parts.
I’ll pluck myself
and cast me down,
a gauntlet
to the worms,
the musky hall
and teeming pipe,
the fecund depths
of your soiled post,
any day,
and like marriage itself,
let it feed, let it feed.



Michelle Bitting has published work in Prairie Schooner, Nimrod, Narrative, Crab Orchard Review, Passages North, Many Mountains Moving, Rattle, Linebreak, and others. Recently, her work was seen in diode, The Cortland Review, and Sou’wester. Poems have appeared on Poetry Daily and Verse Daily. In 2007, 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. She holds an MFA in Poetry from Pacific University, Oregon. Visit her at: http://www.michellebitting.com