Margin: Exploring Modern Magical Realism

m i c h a e l   h e t t i c h   ~   m i a m i   s h o r e s ,   f l o r i d a


Small mammals pulled out of our bodies, to sniff
our bedroom, into our closets, into
my wife's cello, which she'd laid on its side,
still humming, before turning out the light.

They chattered and sang and woke other animals
in the walls, to call at the creatures beneath
the house, and those who live inside
the pipes and insulation; soon

the whole house was singing and we were breathing
more deeply in sleep. I dream, sometimes,
of floating far out, where jellyfish thicken
the currents; I watch the way they move

as I float there, until I move like them.
My wife dreams of tall men and sleek fur -- and what,
what can I do but hug her? Animals crawl
across our bodies, gnawing us in places

we'll never notice, though if we sleep
long enough together, we might grow grasses
and trees where there have been only wild
flowers and dragonflies, butterflies and bees,

none of which lives longer than a season.



I ran into a girl I hardly knew. I was wondering when you'd get here, she said, held out her hand and asked me to walk with her. The attics in remnant farmhouses all over the suburbs filled with moths and bees as we held hands -- shyly, at first -- and walked. Soon all the clothes and old photographs stored in those dusty places were tattered and the rafters were hung with buzzing hives that dripped with honey. We walked too far, all the way into town. She had beautiful eyes.

As a child, I told her, I knew a man who could take out his glass eye. She claimed she knew a person who could take out his tongue. He'd put it on the kitchen table, pucker his mouth into a circle, and stare as the tongue rolled itself into a ball or tried to crawl away. I asked her whether that tongue could taste anything when it was outside that strange man's body and she pulled her hand from mine as though I'd made an obscene suggestion. Could it speak any words while it was in the open air? No, she said impatiently, it just purred softly.

She told me Thoreau kept samples of plants and flowers in a compartment in his hat. She said he studied the world he walked through as though he might that way understand God. He listened to the wind, often hearing old friends he hadn't seen for years calling out to tell him what was blossoming, where the ripe berries were.

I felt like an afternoon turning into evening; I felt like daylight savings time. You would love me, she said, if you had the life I'd imagined for you. I love you anyway, I said enthusiastically. Suddenly, it was raining, hard enough to drown things, hard enough to melt things, hard enough to sing farewell.

This prose poem was nominated for a Pushcart Prize

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