He sings to the moths that beat against the streetlights,
then gathers their dead and saves them in jars.
Stays up all night watching silent movies
then lies on the floor, to look up at the stars.
One morning he scattered birdseed on the windowsills
to invite the birds he loves inside.
When I got home I found him sitting on the floor
holding his arms out like a naked scarecrow
and crying. We’ve been married fifty years
today. This morning when the rain
had finally stopped, he went out and picked up
a cardinal that had flown against the picture window
and lay in a puddle. He whispered into
its feathers and kissed it, then tossed it back up
into the sky. We both watched it fall,
a dead weight, into the grass, and I watched
as he walked over to retrieve it, then tossed it up again.
Rain where the hills become mountains, back
where nobody walks for years, and stones
push their shoulders to the surface, groaning
like mammals we knew in dreams; rain
where mica glints like the windows of houses
behind which creatures smaller than an eyelash
sing to their children.
I met you in the rain
she says to the man she’s been living with longer
than a single lifetime, and you told me you wanted
to melt away with me, seep into the leaf-mold
and sweet-rot of the woods. But before that, she says,
she wants to dance inside the secret places
between them, the stories they’ve told so often
they couldn’t be true except as paths
toward something larger, as the rain seeps down
into the ground for centuries.
she says to him now between thoughts; go deeper,
she says to him now; mean nothing she says
to the silences that migrate across the night sky,
constellations, patterns of memory
and absence she thinks of as her own so she can
forget what she needs to and love him.
In That Language
the root of the verb “to dance” is “sky
filled with clouds,” while the root of “to sing”
is “touch me gently, I am weary from carrying
these stones, moving things around in this landscape.”
The root of “language” might be “grasses blowing
where there isn’t any breeze, the bees that make them dance”—
and all those small birds thrashing in the underbrush
and all those small animals breathing in the trees.
In that ancient language the root of the verb
“to be” might remind you of the fine hairs
at the back of your neck, the arc of an eyelash
left on your pillow the last time you slept there,
or the rain that wakes you in the middle of the night
and keeps you awake until morning.
Michael Hettich has published ten books and a dozen chapbooks of poetry, most recently TO START AN ORCHARD, which was published in September, 2019. His work has appeared in such journals as TriQuarterly, Ploughshares, Orion, Prairie Schooner and Terrain.com. He lives with his family in Black Mountain, NC. His website is michaelhettich.com.