Nearer by Michelle Bitting


Snow and silence thrill me, open sky shaking salt on its fierce meat: the savage
trees, their frayed and needled glory. I’m bundled to block cold breezes
gusting for days with azure fleece ringing my neck. Between the trade winds
and westerlies, horse latitudes bring calm. I sip tea from thick porcelain, color
of cream. Flared walls of branching green and my mind getting wind
of redwood hearts, the fortress mystique. When the freeze presses,
it gets rough settling down to a stool with three legs
in the rusted light of a barn, bare aroma of manure and sweet hay
rising with my flannel collar hiked to nest numb ears. My stiff
hands reach, the heifer groans, lifts one foot and sets it back
as I tweak her pink teats, coaxing the fatty spurts, pearled
froth from swollen faucets. Animals sway in adjacent stalls
celebrating release: held treasure. Do you see how milk and light twist,
leaking away? Like everything, day sliding towards night
when the owl watching hefts its wings and drops upon prey
from dimmed heights, dust and shadows shaken off?
This hunting, endless. The peace, conflicted.
My need for warm things hustling through the dark.
Darkness, whatever I can claim to call my own.


Michelle Bitting’s third collection is The Couple Who Fell to Earth (C & R Press), named to Kirkus Reviews‘ Best Books of 2016. She has poems published or forthcoming in The American Poetry Review, Narrative, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Review, Vinyl Poetry, Plume, Diode, Tabula Poetica, the Paris-American, AJP, Green Mountains Review, Harvard Review (“Renga for Obama”), and others. Poems have appeared on Poetry Daily and Verse Daily, have been nominated for Pushcart and Best of the Net prizes, (including Best of the Net 2017 from Thrush Poetry Journal) and recently, The Pablo Neruda, American Literary Review and Tupelo Quarterly poetry contests. Michelle won the 2018 Mark Fischer Poetry Prize, and a fourth collection, Broken Kingdom won the Catamaran Prize and is due out in 2018.