Now a covey of birds whose name I don’t know
chatters down from the gumbo-limbo tree
I sit beneath, reading Chinese poetry.
Everyone else in my family is still sleeping.
The gardenia has blossomed for the first time in years
and the blossoming jasmine swarms with bees
whose buzzing I can hear
from clear across the garden.
The highest good is like clear water,
I read now. Sometimes, as it grows older,
my body reminds me of a stranger I’ve met
on some back road at dusk, who asks if he can walk
beside me, smiles through broken teeth,
and starts to tell his story.
Before long I’ve left him behind, though I still hear
his voice in the distance, if I listen. Not now.
Instead I stand up and go back into the house
to wake my family, which causes the birds
to burst into the sky, which causes the tree
to quiver and sing, then fall silent.
Michael Hettich's poems have appeared widely in journals and anthologies. His most recent books are Like Happiness (Anhinga, 2010) and The Animals Beyond Us (New Rivers, 2011). A new book, Systems of Vanishing, is forthcoming from University of Tampa Press in April, 2014.