Our little house sat at the end of a street
that ran through a marsh which flooded with the tide
and left the city’s debris in the cattails
and grasses, where my brother and I

wandered in our rubber boots, clutching sticks
we’d pissed on to give them power, and making
discoveries—a dead swan, long neck curled
around its rotting body, whose feathers stayed white
for days, as the tide hugged it and let go.

We’d roam until dusk, pretending we were hunting
water rats and thieves, and sinking down into
the muck, sometimes beyond our knees,
having to pull each other free, to walk

reluctantly home as the streetlights came on,
undressing at the front door in the chilly evening air,
fragrant with the human smells of wet
lawn and dinner, so different from the funk
of the muck and rotting which thrilled us.


Michael Hettich has published a dozen books of poetry, most recently The Mica Mine, which won the 2020 Lena Shull Book Award from the North Carolina Poetry Society and was published in 2021. A “new and selected” volume is forthcoming from Press 53 in 2023. His poems and essays have appeared in such journals as Orion, Rattle, Boulevard, Prairie Schooner, Poetry East and Ploughshares. He lives with his family in Black Mountain, North Carolina. His website is