The Apple Trees                                                                                                  —Michael Hettich


Your mother loved waking late, after everyone else
in the family was gone so the house could relax
around her, and a kind of smoke
could fill her rooms with silence and the smell
of tanned leather saddles on the horses she rode
around and around as a child while her father
in his bow-tie watched from the car, smoking
a pipe, with the window rolled down, and planned
his gardens of turtles and bird baths and cool
terraces laughing with drinks at dusk
and new-mown grass, while she cantered, pondering
boys in general and seashells so deep
no one will ever find them to marvel
at their beauty, put them on display and imagine
what lived so many miles underwater
the dark there is permanent, like the sap inside a memory
of apple trees bursting into flames we could gather
and give as a gesture of love, for their fragrance, 
or listen to the bees there and watch their fruit ripen, 
or climb them in an ancient story, up into the sky.

 

 

(This poem is available in our store  
as a broadside signed by the author.)

 

The Afternoon Nap


You fall asleep in the library and wake up on a train
in a landscape you remember from Doctor Zhivago,
a film you saw more than once, many years ago now,
but have mostly forgotten. You’ve been studying the nuances
of late-Romantic thought and trying not to dwell
on your fiancée’s distraction; lately she laughs
with far less abandon than she used to, before
you asked for her hand. You remember the horses
in that very long movie. Weren’t there wolves too?
They mostly stayed hidden in the woods, though now
you can see them through the trees there. You point, though there’s no one
to follow your finger. You should have worn a warmer coat,
you think, rocking gently as the train pushes on
through miles of untracked snow, toward a place you’ve never been
but remember now, vaguely, from the movie, and with
a growing sense that what you’ve yearned for at the bottom
of your life, in the muck you hardly ever dive
down to—it’s hard to hold your breath that long—
is something like the landscape you are entering now,
where it snows all the time and the lakes are frozen solid,
and where your fiancée waits beautifully, like
that dark-haired woman in the movie I’ve already
mentioned you can’t remember very well,
though you sat in the darkness and watched her as a boy,
more than once, and felt things there aren’t any words for,
even now. And soon the train will stop
at some station you can only imagine; you’ll get up
and walk off into that snowy place, into
a language you are suddenly fluent in. She’ll be
standing there waiting for you, not as beautiful
as you remember, but crying with joy
and holding up the baby you’d almost completely
forgotten was yours. And he’ll be crying too.

 

 photo: Sarah Jones

Michael Hettich's most recent books of poetry include Systems of Vanishing (2014), The Animals Beyond Us (2011), and Like Happiness (2010). A new book, The Inner Life of Wind, is forthcoming in 2017. His poems have appeared in many journals, including Orion, Prairie Schooner, Alaska Quarterly Review and Ploughshares. He lives in Miami with his family.

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