September 4-10, 2006: Michelle Bitting and Jalina Mhyana

week of September 4-10, 2006

Michelle Bitting and Jalina Mhyana

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Michelle Bitting

Bio (auto)

Michelle Bitting has work forthcoming or published in Glimmer Train, Swink, Prairie Schooner, Poetry Daily, Small Spiral Notebook, Nimrod, The Southeast Review, Clackamas Literary Review, Many Mountains Moving, Poetry Southeast, Slipstream, Dogwood, Gargoyle, Salt Hill, Pearl, Rattle, and others She has won the Glimmer Train, Rock & Sling Virginia Brendemeuhl Award and Poets On Parnassus Poetry Competitions Formerly a dancer and a chef, she teaches children and is a devoted outreach worker She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Phil Abrams, an actor, and their two young children In January of 2007 she will commence work on an MFA in Poetry at Pacific University, Oregon

The following work is Copyright © 2006, and owned by Michelle Bitting and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsoever without written permission from the author.

Good Friday Kiss

The choir door left open, we slithered in Moving through the musky stacks
of bibles and unlaundered cassocks
we lay down behind the altar,
our bodies an awkward tangle
on the polished floor, snake with clothes on
when he pulled me close, whispering his love Still, it wasn’t the airless sanctuary
or the dead I could hear humming
inside the church’s empty pews It was Paul’s hands that made me cringe
the first time his lips touched mine
twelve years old and asthma sickly, 
the dry, scabbed flesh and little cloth gloves
he wore to cover pink ointments, 
that oozed in a line down his wrists I looked up and saw the cross floating overhead,
draped in black chiffon for today’s Good Friday
like a negligee or widow’s grieving veil, 
and suddenly revolted by the cotton-coated touch
of his fingers brushing my cheek,
I rolled away from him, forever
What did I know of suffering? The flesh
pulled taut and stapled, the human canvas
rubbed to transparency?
How my taunts would come to crucify this boy, 
my young heart quick to shift in gusts
from like to loathe
the art of betrayal I was already learning to perfect.


At Fulton and Church,
we left the train,
followed a trail of light
to stairs
where I pointed out
the peeling arch,
blackened crust
of charred ceiling.

You said, Old age, soot I said, No, this is it And it was Hell’s foyer
Death’s calling card
the stench of things collapsing.

You didn’t believe
until we collided with
that vast quilt of suffering:
every flag, bauble, image
the world’s Technicolor grief
bundled like Joseph’s coat
around the gates of St Paul’s.

Inside dressed iron,
I know you heard it too
the gray teeth
of ancient tombstones
chattering in their sleep.

Jalina Mhyana

Bio (auto)

After living in a remote village in northern Japan for six years, Jalina Mhyana resettled in Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she works as a freelance journalist Her chapbook Spikeseed was published by Bad Moon Books in spring, 2004, and her poetry has been published in Room of One’s Own, Slipstream, Margin and others. She was a finalist in Perigee Journal’s 2005 poetry contest judged by Judy Jordan Jalina, a two-time Pushcart nominee, was a featured poet in From East to West: Bicoastal Verse and her most recent work can be found in Entelechy: Mind and Culture, Half Drunk Muse, and Slipstream She is the founding editor of Rock Salt Plum Review an online poetry journal in which she has published her interviews with poets Li-Young Lee, Denise Duhamel, Kim Addonizio, Laurie Kuntz, and others Jalina is an MFA candidate in the creative writing program at Bennington College
Visit Jalina’s website here:

The following work is Copyright © 2006, and owned by Jalina Mhyana and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsoever without written permission from the author.

Our Pitcher Plant

The bulbous pouches are heavy with poison-water I caress them as I talk on the phone, stir the spaghetti I can cup them, tug them like the bottoms of earlobes
where the hairs grow slight and downy
I’m tempted to slip a finger inside one, from the top,
where the flies enter If I had the nerve, how
slowly would it digest me? Is that what men
are afraid of, the succubus, vaginas with teeth?

Would I have the courage to slide one along my thigh,
feel its weight between them, imagine
it releasing its poison over me, telling me it’s hungry,
I’m delicious?

The pitcher plant is hermaphroditic, appeals
to my duality, I’d wear them woven
around my neck, hanging in cleavage, thrown
over my shoulders like hair when I laugh
Each testicle-shape would hold a different liquor I could flip a coin-sized lid and squeeze the booze
past my lips, quickly, before it sensed my flesh
My husband has nightmares about it, while I fantasize In his dreams the plant is an intelligence,
a menacing energy in our house Wiser, more abundant
scrotum mocking his dumb ones –

the lurking sensual energy, how he walks in
to find me resting the curve of it on closed lips
as if it had chosen the spot itself
–  First published in Ink Pot (Issue 7; fall, 2005)

Church in Basic Training

It felt like fucking, all this touching
every Sunday behind bibles, virgins
swaying up against me, breathless,
and my pelvis rubbing gods’ –

Every Sunday behind bibles, virgins,
soldiers tight against me, longing,
and my pelvis rubbing gods’
to the big black woman voices.

Soldiers tight against me, longing,
all that rising, sitting, kneeling
to the big black woman voices,
spirits warming, tensing, folding, then

all that rising, sitting, kneeling
like some kind of dance, a mating,
spirits warming, tensing, folding and
god went “Shhhhh” between my thighs –

Like some kind of dance, a mating,
I passed candies to the trainees while
god went “Shhhhh” between my thighs
to keep our secrets in my panties and

I passed candies to the trainees while
my husband’s hands went roaming
to keep our secrets in my panties,
Amen, Amen, hallelujah!

My husband’s hands went roaming,
he was all the boys around me –
Amen, Amen, hallelujah!
Chanting sweaty, almost cult-like!

He was all the men around me,
swaying up against me, breathless,
chanting sweaty, almost cult-like!
It felt like fucking, all this touching
– First published in Ink Pot (Issue 7; fall, 2005)


Cameras are carnivores,
their curled black tongues
savoring the skin’s contours
with silver halide taste buds
I removed my clothes, then my body
If my essence could be seen,
would it be a white light glowing
around me, a wisp of it caught
in the chewing teeth of the camera?

The summer I modeled nude
my body was eaten, too,
and I found myself reborn on the other
side of the lens, clothed,

stealing the souls of other college girls
with my hungry Nikon
I gave birth to their bodies
in pools of liquid, urging nipples
to rise circular and taut
from the possibility of blank paper;

I was a conductor, a masturbator,

coalescing bodies from the souls
they gave me when they smiled.

– A slightly different version appeared inSlipstream
(25th Anniversary Issue; spring, 2005)