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Michael Hettich


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.

The Constellations

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.

                                                                           Drink me

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 He lives with his family in Black Mountain, NC. His website is

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