Learning to Meditate                                                                                       —Michael Hettich

            You had your own heartbeat to attend to.
Charles Simic


I thought it was high time I forgot about the bull’s-eye
at the center of my forehead and just walked around
whistling like any other happiness-pretender
who claims he loves to sit still and listen
to the birds but never sits still. I could feel
the ladder of my rib bones, my femurs and hips
keeping me present, and I wondered what they’d look like
in a century—which reminded me of the skeleton that stood
in a corner of my high school biology class.
Who had she been? And had she once been beautiful?
I’d even asked my teacher if there was a photograph
of her, that might have come with her bones,
and I’d asked if she’d chosen to be boiled-down or flayed
into the skeleton we studied, or if
her body had been acquired in some other way
by the skeleton company. Had she been completely
unknown, unclaimed, abandoned?

In those long-ago days, I was just a kid
from the suburbs who couldn’t begin to understand
that the center of things—which is everywhere—was also
the place we’ve never been and never
will be: Our true selves. And so I imagined
a lovely young girl I could have had a crush on,
had she not been a skeleton. Don’t shoot me I sing,
under my breath, as I putter in my garden,
wondering where the opossums and raccoons
hide from the day, what they teach their children
about us, lumbering creatures with bull’s-eyes
darkening our foreheads, that most of us don’t even
notice as we shuffle from here to there, knowing
nothing about targets, or the silence of those guns.

Michael Hettich

Michael Hettich's most recent book of poems, Systems of Vanishing, won the 2013 Tampa Review Prize in Poetry and was published in 2014. Other books include The Animals Beyond Us (2011) and Like Happiness (2010). A new book, The Frozen Harbor, is forthcoming in 2017 from red Dragonfly Press. He lives and teaches in Miami. His website is michaelhettich.com.

ISSN 2472-338X
© 2017