Michelle Bitting
An Hour North of Lee Vining, California
Who remembers where we stopped
for jars of orange neon cheese and the tangled black
knots of faux flies my father taught me to thread,
hooks that pierced the lips of bright trout
skimming lagoons in the craggy High Sierras?
I remember ghost lines cast to blue nothingness
we watched dissolve in the lake’s dark bottom.
What did we say to each other, side by side,
swaying in the wooden dish? Or was it
just the music of the wind in trees parting
ash white branches, the Aspen banter?
Why don’t I remember reeling with the rush
of my glittering first catch, the zagging colors cinched?
I think it’s come to the moment
he showed me how to haul a fat fish up,
how to grasp it tight in my girlish hand,
the wriggling slickness releasing life
on my nervous palm as I raised it high above me
and in one grand swoop, brought the stunned head
down against our boat’s iron edge, a gavel felled,
a verdict delivered, stunning those wide round eyes
to stillness. I can be as cruel as you,
I wanted to say, with pride, but didn’t
and still don’t. It’s enough
to think of it now. Enough to toss it back,
to let that ugly beauty go.

Michelle Bitting’s latest collection is The Couple Who Fell to Earth (C & R Press, 2016). She has poems forthcoming or published in The American Poetry Review, Prairie Schooner, Narrative, Vinyl, Plume, diode, Nimrod, the Paris-American, Fjords, and other journals. Her book Good Friday Kiss won the DeNovo First Book Award, and Notes to the Beloved (C & R Press) won the Sacramento Poetry Center Book Award. Michelle has taught poetry in the U.C.L.A. Extension Writer’s Program, at Twin Towers prison and for ten years has been an active California Poet in the Schools. She holds an MFA in Poetry from Pacific University, Oregon and is completing a PhD in Mythological Studies at Pacifica Graduate Institute. You can find out more, here: www.crpress.org/shop/the-couple-who-fell-to-earth/ or www.michellebitting.com.