Since 1996 Volume XXI

                                         Michael Hettich

Born in Brooklyn, NY, and raised in the city and its suburbs, Michael Hettich has lived in north Florida, Colorado, and Vermont and now lives in Miami with his family where he teaches English and Creative Writing at Miami Dade College. Author of over a dozen books and chapbooks of poetry, his most recent books include The Frozen Harbor (Red Dragonfly Press, 2017, winner of the David Martinson-Meadowhawk Prize); Systems of Vanishing (University of Tampa Press, 2014, winner of the Tampa Review Prize); The Animals Beyond Us (New Rivers, 2011), and Like Happiness (Anhinga, 2010). His work has appeared in many journals and in a number of anthologies. He regularly collaborates with visual artists, musicians, and fellow writers. His website is michaelhettich.com.

The Shells

As the tide rises, tiny shells
tumble and wait, and tumble. There is nothing
alive inside most of them 
but the kind of light
in a room whose curtains have been drawn for years,
a room whose window 
faces a street
where people sit late into the evenings at cafes
and the palm fronds flutter. Someone sits quietly
in that room most afternoons, listening 
to the chatter, trying to hear a voice 
she might recognize. At dusk she gets dressed,
goes down to the cafe, and drinks a glass of wine. 
No one ever talks to her. Of course the ocean never stops 
pulling its shells from the deep; some of them 
still have creatures alive inside them, 
even as they’re stranded by the falling tide
to dry up and die, or be eaten by the little birds 
who run along the beach, willets or terns, 
or picked up by someone who admires their beauty
then throws them back into the ocean.

--published in Alaska Quarterly Review


Sunday mornings we walk around our house 
collecting the turtles and frogs that have slipped in
during the week, while we worked too hard
to attend to such ordinary chores 

and while we gather them we sing, and while we sing
mourning doves line up on the gardenia bushes outside
and look in at us, and listen; and while 
we sing, our children sleep deeply, growing 
fur and vivid senses 

inside their bodies, in some other fragile world
that will vanish as soon as we wake them, which makes it
all the more precious and necessary

and so we sing softly, across their dreaming bodies,
of happiness we haven’t ever really known 
but want to make possible for them, our children,

at least while they’re sleeping, by singing these songs
whose words we make up as we sing, and whose melodies
we compose like the wind composes in the trees,
simply by moving our bodies.

--published in Orion Like Happiness
The Horses

In that place you never want to talk about, there were
horse skins hanging from nails in the barn
where there once had been horses. You told me your parents

would go in there sometimes and strip each other naked
and slip into those horse skins. You’ve said their bodies
would seem to grow larger to fill that slack skin

until they were actual horses. And you stood there
in the bare yard waiting for those horses to push open
that barn door with their massive heads and limp off 

as though they were overworked and world-weary, out 
into the tall grass; their ribs showed gaunt, 
their eyes were filmy, and flies made a dark cloud 

around their slack bodies, but still they walked out there
while you aired-out the barn, gathered their clothing, 
folded it neatly, and set it in a pile 

on the bench for later. Then you went inside
to nap and wander though the house. You cooked yourself
a big meal—something you loved—and then you waited

for the moon to rise full though it was still afternoon
by the clock. And that night you would carry out the saddles
and reins, bit and blinders, or you’d walk out

in your nightgown to ride your mother and father
bareback, until they remembered who they were
by the feel of your small legs around them.

--published in Great River Review

The Windfall Fruit

How frightened I was, she says, when my body
bloomed suddenly, this body I’d ignored
since I was a girl, when it swelled overnight
with fragrances and insects, pollen and black earth—

how strange it was to walk outside and feel
other animals were watching me, drawn to me, wanting
to touch me, to live near my spell,
which I hadn’t intended. Who was I then,

glowing and pregnant, though no one had loved me,
hungry to touch things, to fill myself with creatures
and feelings: songs and dances to live by?
I feared I’d lost myself, and then I was myself again.

This morning the wind shakes the tops of the fruit trees—
key lime, mango, carambola, avocado.
It blows down the fruit that was too high to reach:
Ripe fruit, bruised but tasty, lies scattered in the grass.

--published in Many Loves

The Mother

Once I watched her climb a ladder
into a huge crabapple tree
feeling for worm-free apples we could taste
and make something out of, applesauce or pie.

The day was cool and she was singing,
hidden in the tree-shade. I was singing too.

She threw an apple down at me
and laughed to watch me dodge and shriek,

and then she stepped off, into the tree;
she disappeared into the green, and seemed
to really disappear, which scared me—I was just a little boy—

so I climbed up into the apple-scented shade
to find her sitting on a limb, holding apples
in her skirt with both hands—how would she climb down
that way?—and crying softly.

Her legs were scratched up and streaked with dirt
and her delicate manicured feet were bare.

Copyright © 2018 by Michael Hettich. All Rights Reserved

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Mary Barnet


Grace Cavalieri

Joan Gelfand

Janet Brennan