Archive for March 17th, 2023


[with 3 poems by Michael Hettich]

Linda keeps a little book beside the bed, a dictionary of Jungian dream archetypes. If she awakens from a dream of an elf, that could mean she’s searching in her conscious life for a guide for her soul. If dancing, maybe she’s expressing joy or sorrow in her role as woman. Leafing through the pages, I have to admit I notice many mundanities wandering through our normal days – dirt, a flock of birds, hiking in the forest – that when they appear in dreams basically translate into one simple message: we’re anxious about something.

No surprise, I suppose, that after I first retired from medical practice my dreamlife erupted with vivid and unrepressed energy. I had spent 8 or 10 hours a day in pretty focused cogitation for some forty years, and my subconscious was now frantically trying to re-engage the clutch. But the content! I’m at the office or the hospital but everything is off-kilter, out of sync. I can’t get from here to there. I can’t find the patient I’m looking for, or make the connection I need, or get someone to listen. Every morning I remember the dreams and struggle to imagine what they might have to do with my conscious life.

Conscious life, what a concept. Homo sapiens sapiens, man who thinks about thinking. How many hours in every day pass by without me giving them much thought, even though an observer would say I was nominally conscious? Yesterday I suddenly remembered that I wanted to know what the heck is alfalfa, anyway, and an hour of reading later I’d become the alfalfa-meister. Perhaps it would have been more useful, at least for a minute, to ask myself why I wanted to know about alfalfa (which is a member of the Pea family, Fabaceae, originated in ancient Iran 2,500 years ago, and whose name in Arabic means horse food). What I choose to think about, and why, must be formed from my inner identity even as it forms my identity.

And what about dreams? Are they created from our consciousness, or do they create our consciousness? I still have one of those work dreams about twice a week, and often, just when I have been able to complete some task, I’ll suddenly tell myself, “Wait, you don’t have a medical license any more,” and I wake up sweating. What is the object of this subjective? I could make a long list of all my actual daily challenges and try to connect the symbolic dots – loss of control, weight of responsibility, nagging uncertainty. Could it even be existential anxiety about my true identity?

Perhaps the dream is just trying to say, “How about if you just slow down for a minute and simply think about this.”

❦ ❦ ❦


Before we start shooting salt into the sky
to cool the planet and cloud our days,

perhaps we should simply
sit down in the shade
with stories – of moons that break open into flowers,
of foxes that sleep at the foot of our beds
to keep our feet wild. And before we start dreaming

floating cities adrift on a rising
ocean, perhaps we should undress ourselves
of who we’ve become, slip out of the habits
we’ve devised to feign our innocence, and swim
out into the deeper water

until whatever’s still phosphorescent
within us glows like small constellations
beneath which the huge, warm-blooded swimmers,
with minds and memories, and songs that might teach us
new ways to hear, are moving through the darkness.

Imagine the feel of their huge backs rubbing
against our pale feet, as they move on through the night.

Michael Hettich
from To Start and Orchard, Press 53, Winston-Salem, NC, © 2019

❦ ❦ ❦

In each of Michael Hettich’s poems, I amble through a dreamlike landscape of the obvious, the mysterious, the unfathomable. Familiar characters behave in unexpected ways; they transpose and reform and suddenly I’ve arrived in an entirely new space. It is scary when the parents strip naked and slip into the skins of horses, then walk gaunt and slack into the field, but when you ride them bareback you remember who they are by the feel of your small legs around them. There is happiness in wailing on even when no one is listening. “In a room of rubble and brittle light, / I suddenly know things I’ll never understand: / each moment is an animal, leaping sunlight / to give us these bodies.”

To Start an Orchard is a work of unrepressed imagination and deep inner exploration. Be guided by the archetypes. The window is for seeing out of and looking into but must become a door before one can walk through. Trees and grass, things grow without your direction into what you most need them to be. And love, it may be unreachable as birds gone from the trees or turning to dust in a spider’s web, or it may be a feather dreamed in the egg and growing into flowers.

Something that is hard to grab and hold may still be possible to grasp and feel. These poems climb and fall and turn but without a lurch – I never fear being thrown clear. Where there is bleeding there is also healing. I look about and for a moment I don’t recognize my surroundings, but I find myself saying, “Yes, yes, this is just as it should be.”

❦ ❦ ❦

To Start an Orchard

Whatever silences we’d always maintained
we continued to nurture, like the fruit from a landscape
that was foreign to us, even after all these years,
a fruit we weren’t sure whether to peel,
cook, or eat raw, kept on our windowsill
until it had withered and was somehow
beautiful, like a curiosity we’d collected on the beach
that reminded us of journeys, fathomless depths,
and yet was just a piece of fruit, desiccated and black,
curled like the pit of a dream, or a nut.
And so, when you spoke, or tried to, a small plant
emerged from its folds and darkness, delicate
and proud and needing to be watered until
it could be planted outside. I could already
hear the birds singing from its wilderness of branches.
I was already humming to the buzzing of its bees.

Michael Hettich
from To Start and Orchard, Press 53, Winston-Salem, NC, © 2019

❦ ❦ ❦

Starting from Sleep

+++ She tells me our bodies are nets dropped into
the ocean. And when they are pulled up, the minnows
are spilled out to flip-flop and strangle.

+++ And then we are tossed back over, to dream:

+++ +++ I talk, she says, to my great-great-grandchildren
+++ +++ +++ by treating all things with whatever compassion
+++ +++ I’ve drawn from the grace I’ve been shown. And those children
+++ +++ +++ +++ thank me, and dream of being born.

The wild parts of everything are disappearing everywhere.

+++ +++ +++ +++ Wood grain faint fingerprint
+++ +++ +++ +++ +++ pores eyes blue breathing
+++ +++ +++ +++ wind dust mind afternoon
+++ +++ +++ +++ +++ tide lips +++ and sudden flowers.

Michael Hettich
from To Start and Orchard, Press 53, Winston-Salem, NC, © 2019

❦ ❦ ❦

Doughton Park Tree 2020-11-22


Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: