Red Orpheus by Michelle Bitting


Sometimes it hurts down here,
worse than stepping on a snake, more
than the trail of scarlet notes
the cat tattooed along my arm
when you disappeared,
when it was just me
and the family ghosts, serpents
flaming a velvet dark
when cleaved open, exposed
like jewels in the night air.
I never saw my captor
but I knew his name
the day I was born. I’ve faith
I’ll come to love
my cage, weathered well
for shifting climates: ventilation
for increasing heat – warm
in the cooler seasons. And always wet
with so much surging, with blood
that loves, like the sea, to keep time.
I’m breathing shadows
inside the chamber
of a beating, buried heart, Beloved
and what could be bad about that?


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.