In Praise of My Brother, the Painter

by | Mixed Media

Artist’s Statement: One of the things I love best about making these films is not knowing exactly where I’m going until I get there. I have very strong feelings about this poem; the subject matter is relentlessly intense and endless, as suicide is. But the poem, ultimately, is about hope and a state of evolution towards the capturing of beauty and some kind of peace and coming to terms years later. And yet…there are plenty of images of struggle and darkness mixed in with the ecstatic and colorful, kaleidoscopic ones. Again, the surprises were delightful and liberating, psychologically, to stumble upon. The whole Houdini trope emerged in a spectacular and subtly associative way. And I snapped the images from an exhibition at a Los Angeles museum exhibition and almost got myself into serious hot water! I also had planned to have a certain inspirational friend appear in the film at the end. When he wasn’t available I had to do it myself, and turns out, that is exactly what was supposed to happen. The layers of meaning multiplied and aligned in a highly personal and poignant way. These films are very homemade and done in cahoots with my talented and patient husband, Phil Abrams who edits the films. In the same way poems are written from life’s detritus, I continue to be blown away by what can be created from the world’s gorgeous and brutal everyday scraps waiting to be collected and wrangled into something powerful and new.



How every morning he rose, slave

to the sound, this endless call to make.

Mad hatter, dervish sawyer, a primitive

blur of hands at work: fingers feeding

the dreamiest bolts through needles,

vision’s machinery. In the photo where

he stands, fists on hips—defiant, electric

in his Bowery studio, splotched jeans

and boots, the clouds of white gesso

a kind of palette couture—so satisfied

his look: Je suis arrive, Asshole…And

this is how I want to remember him.

Not what a note left like that means.

Not the slow descent, the pills or piles

of soiled laundry. Not the dog left barking

in the kitchen, the bowl with enough grain

to last. No, I want the beauty, even

his cursive, the swirling tints

of parting thought, the art itself: Dear Sister,

if I could survive this long, you will flourish.




About The Author


Michelle Bitting has work published or forthcoming in The American Poetry Review, Prairie SchoonerNarrativeRiver Styx, Crab Orchard Review, Passages North, Linebreak, diode, Rattle, Anti—the L.A. Weekly and others. Poems have appeared on Poetry Daily and as the Weekly Featured Poet on 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. Her book Notes to the Beloved, won the 2011 Sacramento Poetry Center Award and will be published in 2012. Recently, Michelle won the Beyond Baroque Foundation Award. Michelle has taught poetry in the U.C.L.A. Extension Writer’s Program, at Twin Towers prison, and is proud to be an active California Poet in the Schools. She holds an MFA in Poetry from Pacific University, Oregon. Visit her at