He imagined he could open certain sentences
and walk around inside them, like climbing through the window
of a neighbor’s house: No one would be home
as he moved quietly upstairs, past the photos on the walls,
into the bedroom with its rumpled sheets,
the laundry in its basket by the bathroom, which was still
humid from their morning showers
and fragrant with their lotions. Back down in the kitchen
he took a bite from the crust on a plate
smeared with egg yolk; then he walked casually
out the front door of this sentence he hadn’t
spoken yet, back across his neighbor’s lawn
and his own ragged garden. He sat on his front porch
and dozed off a little, pondering the yearnings
he’d never expressed
to certain people he’d loved.
He imagined he could climb into those unspoken yearnings,
explore those long-closed rooms,
poke around in their closets and drawers, where maybe
he’d find a bundle of letters written
by the person he’d been once, or a diary
that still smelled faintly of a perfume that had made him
sense that simply breathing was enough,
sometimes, to be content--which hadn’t been true,
of course. He knew that. But as he sat there
dozing, he let himself breathe that perfume
as he thought about what he might have said so many
years ago now it felt like another life
he could hardly remember. When dusk fell, he woke
and watched for his neighbors, perfect strangers, to return.
As they headed inside he’d wave and call
“good evening” across their well-trimmed lawn.
They might wave back and wish him well.
Just as likely they’d pretend they hadn’t heard him.
Michael Hettich has published a dozen full-length books of poetry, most recently The Mica Mine (April 2021). His work has appeared widely in journals and in a few anthologies as well. He lives with his family in Black Mountain, North Carolina. (website)