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Everyday Ablutions


Michelle Bitting

~ after Saj Issa’s  “Ablution of Faith and Frustration” (ceramic on wood, 2020)

This garment called life,

ill-fitted for so long, falls

away. I am sky— naked—

and a human enterprise

with three days rain

writing truth across my

face, spindles of blue

flashing the horizon, feeding

a mountain’s green


ear. Without remembering

why, I remove my shoes

and walk a cold geometry,

spinning my points, my noiseless

star pinned to a system

of bright tales— its revolving

fires. Timeless, I will travel

through, sins waving at

scars no longer called


foreign. How pure, the broken-up

patterns— clouds that morph

and blur masses billowing

inside. I don’t know why

it became impossible, this task

of faith. Only clearer now,

framed in relief like this

on a museum wall. What’s

erased overcame me. And I have

to bow not knowing to what.


Michelle Bitting was short-listed for the 2023 CRAFT Character Sketch Challenge, the 2020 Montreal International Poetry Prize, the 2021 Fish Poetry Contest judged by Billy Collins, and a finalist for the 2021 Coniston Prize and 2020 Reed Magazine Edwin Markham Prize. She won Quarter After Eight’s 2018 Robert J. DeMott Short Prose Contest and was a finalist for the 2021 Ruminate Magazine, 2019 Sonora Review and New Millennium Flash Prose contests. She is the author of five poetry collections, Good Friday Kiss, winner of the inaugural De Novo First Book Award; Notes to the Beloved, which won the Sacramento Poetry Center Book Award; The Couple Who Fell to Earth; Broken Kingdom, winner of the 2018 Catamaran Poetry Prize and a recipient of a Starred Kirkus Review; and Nightmares & Miracles (Two Sylvias Press, 2022), winner of the Wilder Prize and recently named one of Kirkus Reviews 2022 Best of Indie. Her chapbook Dummy Ventriloquist is forthcoming in 2024. Bitting is a Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing and Literature at Loyola Marymount University.

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