The Nine of Doubt:
Cento for Michelle Bitting

Kathleen McClung

I thread the interior
slashing my own tires.
Thereís never fair warning.
I set flame to my feet long ago.
Words like Fleurs Du Mal
launched from inked lips
must have been narcotic,
no more than grains of dust
bringing traffic to a halt.

I believe in a domination of clouds
and that coyote crying in the hills,
masks of mermaid colors.
I donít know.
Sometimes you have to wear one
with your writerís blur and hunch,
arpeggios, paisley blouse opening,
the blessing of mud
between the buttons.

Hereís the theatre we sneak into again.†
The ladder down is rickety,
the nightís glass staircase.
Maybe itís time for a new obsession
or spinach for dinner. Nothing
at the brick university to hear,
we who strut our consonants hard.
What if reckless backfires? What if
even the beetles love to be trampled.


Kathleen McClung is author of The Typists Play Monopoly and Almost the Rowboat. Her poems appear widely in journals and anthologies including Southwest Review, The MacGuffin, Mezzo Cammin, Ekphrasis, California Quarterly, Atlanta Review, Third Wednesday, Forgotten Women, Sanctuary, Last Call, Fire and Rain: Ecopoetry of California, and elsewhere. Winner of the Rita Dove, Morton Marr, Shirley McClure, and Maria W. Faust national poetry prizes, she is a Pushcart and Best of the Net nominee. Associate director and sonnet judge for the Soul-Making Keats literary competition, she teaches at Skyline College and The Writing Salon and directs Women on Writing: WOW Voices Now on the Skyline campus. In 2018-2019 she is a writer-in-residence at Friends of the San Francisco Public Library. www.kathleenmcclung.com


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