Michael Hettich

Two Poems

The Walk

My neighbor and I are taking our dogs
for a walk when he tells me he’s been trying to live
backward lately, and when I squint
he says he means only that he’s been trying
to breathe out and in instead of the other
more natural way, that he’s made his blood pause
and resume its journey in the opposite direction.
He says he’s been trying to think upside down,
to wake when it grows dark, to sing those old songs
we all know by heart, in reverse, and he sings
something that sounds like a Pakistani trance-chant
or a feedback riff: “Yellow Submarine” inhaled.
He tells me he’s trying to flush his body
of ordinary time, to allow his whole system
to filter and rejuvenate, including–and here
he coughs slightly, waiting for his little dog to pee–
his soul. Don’t laugh! But I wasn’t laughing
at all. I was trying to envision the soul
in this air we’re breathing, imagining it’s everywhere
around us, wondering whether we could make
the whole world breathe in reverse, to cleanse itself
that way. He smiles then and shakes his head,
turns around and starts walking backward, calling
Watch me in a man’s voice, then a boy’s, and then a little child’s
and vanishing down the street, into the suburban darkness.

The Gleaming

The child in that story lay down in the grass
and became a small pond, and no one missed her

until someone noticed the bath tub had been running
for days, and someone else noticed the TV

was silent and the jays in the trees were actually
plastic bags. We must be talking

fields now, we must be talking expanses
of backward-moving wind, wild places bordered

by woods without paths. But who thought the child
might sing as she woke up? She lay there gleaming,

waiting for someone without a name to drink her,
waiting for long-legged birds to land

where she’d been forgotten. Her mother and father
are somewhere else now, in their skins and hair

and their hothouse languages, until they can’t remember
the difference between pain and a TV show on sleeping

in a nature preserve where wild animals still live
protected like the soul was once protected

by the body. They plan to wake early, these parents do,
and get some photographs. See this one? It’s a nameless wren

soon to be extinct. See this one? That’s your daughter’s silence
slipping through the certitudes. When did she learn to fly?


Michael Hettich’s most recent book of poems, THE ANIMALS BEYOND US, was published in 2011 by New Rivers Press. His previous book, LIKE HAPPINESS, appeared in 2010 from Anhinga. His new chapbook, THE MEASURED BREATHING, won the 2011 Swan Scythe Press Chapbook contest and was published by Swan Scythe Press. He lives in Miami with his family and works at Miami Dade College. His website is michaelhettich.com


One Response to Michael Hettich

  1. Lenny DellaRocca says:

    As always, and as I’ve known for many, many year years, Michael’s work is simply astonishing.

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