When the Work Runs Out Again

1
I try not to be obvious
rationing the waffles.
I worry my beads
through long hours,
marked by the swish
of a cat’s voodoo tail,
the empress black and white
licking herself clean
in time to the click
of the clock’s kitchen wand.
I watch the maple tree’s fury
ignite the walk outside,
a sudden fire
I know to let rush in,
the magic red flush
that will fuel the furnace later,
when terror creeps
and threatens to freeze me.
Mercy is a mouth,
its cloud of moist heat
exhaled into crisp palms,
prayer relaxing the mind’s blue knot,
a tundra place
that melts, clearing a space
in the center of the chest. Whether
or not you agree
with the great poet from Ghana
who claims we’ve shot our wad
personifying the heart, still,
I trot those game girls out:
mind, body, yes, heart, yes, soul.
There’s no dividing the divine
and what remains
still takes possession,
writhing and spitting
on a wrist of crossed wires:
the pulse point reflected
as the medicine bag descends
from heavenly rafters.
Where the skin of the floor
is met with a cuneiform stone,
the earth and axis mundi,
hot charms of engagement
that get the engines revved.
Where the drums beat so loud
your ears bleed
and you remember who you are.
"When the Work Runs Out Again" a poem by Michelle Bitting
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About Author

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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 www.michellebitting.com.

1 Comment

  1. Not too obvious, nor too obscure, the poet weaves her magic spell, her incantation against that “terror [that] creeps and threatens to freeze,” until she conjures up those ancient drums.

    Well done, with many turns of phrase that tickled my inner ear:
    ‘I worry my beads’

    the ‘cat’s voodoo tail
    the empress black and white
    licking herself clean
    in time to the click
    of the clock’s kitchen wand.’

    Then, of course, from the casual to the simple sublime:
    ‘I trot those game girls out:
    mind, body, yes, heart, yes, soul.
    There’s no dividing the divine…’

    ‘Les mots juste!’

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