The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


Michelle Bitting

What the Rain Made


Water fallen from skies
scraped of clouds & moisture
now bloats the heads of succulents.
Siphoned juice seeps through soil
and the once-desperate flora suddenly float:
green stubs like chubby babies’ fingers,
watered organs that want to burst: balloons
taking aim on a hot summer day.
Water stemmed from wells
hidden beneath the surface.
Pictures we imagine in the dark with our eyes shut tight.
Seeds tossed, the soil of dreams
brings white-ashed ghosts
who rattle their chains down narrowing halls.
The soup grows thin & salty with reduction.
Centuries fly by and still the same miserable portraits:
bankers & demagogues
turning red in the face like monkeys
show delight through their behinds.
I thought we were done with this.
Are we never done with this?
Pictures imagined in the dark with our eyes shut tight.
The giant we woke to discover
atop the beanstalk watered daily.
Burros Tail, Black Prince, Snake Plants,
Aloe. Careful what you wish for.
Stems & roots, the caudices adapt,
storing energy in leaves.
This one’s head a red explosion,
a Hindenburg in flames,
flashing through airwaves around us.
What the loam carries: shadows running
to catch the bus as the perfect storm hits.
In the dream, my feet spin pedals and take me nowhere.
Worms come crawling from below
to scribble their dankest hate
across walls of the local high school.
Water in the underworld,
the dead make us yearn for mommy
who walked into the sea two books ago.
Maybe better to die a hero
than wander an eternity
in this horror show.
Unless you're a mommy.
What the rain brought up: pictures
put to rest fifty years past, zombied to life.
Bodies in trees, hung like ornaments,
our children’s mouths
shocked open, struck mid-song,
their Hallelujahs still trying to fly
to a God who cannot hear.



Michelle Bitting



People of this city
mourning the death of your sacrificial lawns
tendered brown and bald by absent moisture,
behold: the Emerald City returns
after one brief, bold rain. It’s lush
and free, go roll around in it, God’s
green money, his truly begotten girl.
Call it what it is: Walt’s ambrosia,
Lorca’s dog food and we will get down
on all fours and eat it for eternity
after we’ve fried it with our pallid thumbs,
our flapping tongues without gloves
entering the house of horticultural prayer.
It is a Sunday in winter
and everywhere people are rising
to the sound of the sky’s applause.
They’re dressing for worship,
slipping on brushed cotton oxfords,
shined up loafers, dabbing
or slapping their cheeks with lemon after shave
and salmon rouge, weaving ribbons through
braided locks still damp from the tub.
Ablutions before oblations. Have you ever stopped
to consider all that water in the bible?
John splashing himself silly, Jesus’s feet,
the perilous storms, and parting red pond
that longs to separate from its maker? While clouds
above me hammered nails against wooden slats last night
I thought of it, watching dark fluid
pool on linoleum beneath Billy’s head,
the suicide man-child in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,
and how the colossal, dark-haired Chief
hoists that marble column at the end,
extracts it like a root, like a Titan tooth,
a pillar, a tree trunk, unmooring the monolith font
from the bathroom floor while the camera zooms in
and water floods out
like a pulpit bleeding. And when he hoists
that terrible weight onto his mute, Herculean shoulder
like a cold white cross, and heaves it through
the window, smashing the past, the dagger droplets
of glass, that’s like water too, that scattering
of shards, a final cleansing and the last image
of Chief no one will ever forget: his big body
lumbering free into the distant mist,
dissolving against gray fields, the giant paddles
of his feet kicking up behind, a slow motion wheel
rolling over grass that is like green water
and he can walk on it.




MICHELLE BITTING's latest collection is The Couple Who Fell to Earth (C & R Press, 2016), named to Kirkus Reviews' Best Books of 2016. She has poems forthcoming or published in The American Poetry Review, Prairie Schooner, Narrative, Vinyl, Plume, Diode, Nimrod, the Paris-American, Fjords, Tupelo Quarterly and others. 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. Poems have been nominated for Pushcart and Best of the Net prizes, and most recently, The Pablo Neruda, American Literary Review and Tupelo Quarterly Poetry Awards.



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