Michael Hettich
  • Michael Hettich
  • We walked the city after dark, talking
  • about the things that mattered to us then:
  • the most vivid ways to live, how to keep the fire
  • ablaze inside; the girls we’d loved, the women
  • we’d meet someday. We might even build
  • a house, we dreamed, with all our other friends,
  • out in the country, or maybe we’d move
  • to some other country, away from all the clutter
  • and flash. We smoked a joint and sat
  • on a stoop and sang to the darkness. We’d decided
  • to walk till first light, for the mildly wild adventure
  • of watching an entire winter night.
  • Toward dawn we passed a church
  • and stopped to admire it and heard
  • a woman singing inside, high pitched
  • and thin as the glow from the moon against
  • those stained-glass windows. We stood still
  • and listened hard as flurries started.
  • We watched our breath rise and mingle,
  • the buzzing of the streetlamps
  • as loud as her voice. I wanted to sing back to her,
  • but she would never hear, so I started
  • to hum. You hugged me then on the sidewalk,
  • old friend, in, your peacoat; you kissed my frozen ears,
  • my forehead. Your breath smelled like wet wool — I remember
  • that well, after all these years — and you told me
  • you loved me. I said the same to you,
  • though I couldn’t have meant it. Did you? We were just boys.

Michael Hettich’s most recent books are Like Happiness (Anhinga, 2010) and The Animals beyond Us (New Rivers, 2011). His most recent chapbook is The Measured Breathing (Swan Scythe Press, 2011). “Elegy,” which originally appeared in The Sun, is part of a new manuscript entitled The Purposeful Hum. He lives with his wife Colleen in Miami and teaches at Miami Dade College.


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