Monday, July 18, 2016

The Ancestors (Monday Poem)

by Michael Hettich

watch us from behind the scree
and trifles of our lives. You think you're alone
in your moment?  they ask---the way a leaf shivers
without a breeze, or a breath is inhaled
where there is no body. We call that the wind.
But the ancestors watch us like the dark beyond daylight
makes the wild animals move through the trees
until we can't see them. Until they have no names.
You might call them birds, but the ancestors are never birds.
Maybe stones or grasses. Wildflowers. Forgotten words.
Now someone says softly the wild birds are going
extinct, the warblers and thrushes that migrate
thousands of miles. Or the way summer fragrance
covers the scent of things falling back to the earth
as the ancestors did, long ago, living here
although we refuse to acknowledge them, pretending
our muscles and minds and hearts are our own
and everything lives only now.

from Systems of Vanishing, by Michael Hettich, 2014, University of Tampa Press

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