Poems by Michael Hettich

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Salt

by Michael Hettich

From Canary Fall 2013

Michael lives on the Atlantic Coastal Ridge in the Biscayne Bay Watershed of South Florida, a mile west of Biscayne Bay.

If a man takes a walk in the rain, barefoot
because he’s had a dream of fallen leaves and healing,
and if the rain tastes like salt and stings his eyes
like salt. If the man understands what salty rain will do.
The rain is falling hard now; if the man asks the wind
to blow the salty rain out into the ocean
and tastes the rain turn fresh again. This man is full of holes
where others are covered in skin.

The rain falls salty for a moment then turns fresh again.
The bay turns into a freshwater lake
for a single tide. My fingernails are burning
he tells his daughter as he brushes her long hair,
he tells his son by breathing, he tells
his wife when he touches her. But then she’s burning too,
burning with salt. The light is salty now, falling
salty even in the wilderness.

The wind is blowing salty too. The salty snow will fall, white
as always; salty rivers will flow
like our blood flows through our bodies, salty
rain falls everywhere, everywhere, into
the wounds we didn’t even know we’d suffered; it stings
until we can’t sleep. And not because it’s healing.




The Ancestors

by Michael Hettich

From Canary Summer 2014

The ancestors watch us from behind the scree

and trifles of our lives. You think you’re alone

in your moment? they ask—the way a leaf shivers

without breeze, or a breath is inhaled

where there is no body. We call that the wind.

But the ancestors watch us like the dark beyond daylight

makes the wild animals move through the trees

until we can’t see them. Until they have no names.

You might call them birds, but the ancestors are never birds.

Maybe stones or grasses. Wildflowers. Forgotten words.

Now someone says softly the wild birds are going

extinct, the warblers and thrushes that migrate

thousands of miles. Or the way summer fragrance

covers the scent of things falling back to earth

as the ancestors did, long ago, living here

although we refuse to acknowledge them, pretending

our muscles and minds and hearts are our own

and everything lives only now.


Previously appeared in The White Pelican Review



The Blessing

by Michael Hettich

From Canary Spring 2014

Just to think of the much-loved pet dog lost
beside some strange highway, feeling he needs to
get across somehow; just to think of the raccoon
leading her kits up the turnpike ramp,
or the thousands of squirrels and pigeons flattened
like shadows. Think of us humans with somewhere
to go, moving quickly. And whose dog is that
lapping at the garbage in the alley, you know,
the one with a badly-healed leg that festers
with stink, who leaps away yelping when the father
walking along with his child, pretends
to kick the lame dog to make his child laugh
and teach him what’s funny. The dogs that so proudly
cross the rush-hour street as though
they were going somewhere, the opossums who shuffle
along our sidewalk in the moonlight with their babies
all safe in their pouches; we could think of them blessing
our sleep by passing, just think of them dreaming
all day while we work—they all dream, of course,
like we do, to process their lives, just as
they all had parents who grappled to make them,
and mothers who suckled and groomed them, each one.




The Happiness of Trees

by Michael Hettich

From Canary Fall 2016

I slept that summer on a screen porch in the woods
      with the creatures and insects singing so loudly
my mind seemed to join them—out there without me—
      to move around like a breeze from form to form

and then to return as a fox or a cicada,
      some other night creature, to slip back inside me
humming whatever it had heard, patterns
      I couldn’t sing along with but felt inside

like the happiness of trees when a soft wind
      turns their leaves’ pale underbellies up to the sky
and makes the sap rise. I loved to wake
      before myself, to silence and fog.

Sometimes I got up and walked out into the chilly woods
      and sometimes I turned over as though this happiness
might last forever, and slept just a while
               longer, until the first birds sang.




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