The Swallows

Since I don't know the names of the birds that sing
just before first light, when solitude is finest,
and since I hardly listen to them anyway, most mornings,
as I drink my first coffee and look through the books
I left open last night, and enter the world
of those thoughts or let them lie dormant, until
other birds start singing, birds whose names
I don't know either, whose habits I know
nothing of, whose nests are hidden where I've never seen
and never will, probably. Since the air is not a window
we look through but a world we're breathing, bringing
into our bodies and using to speak—
and since the best words we speak are filled with other birds
as real as anything else we could touch
or a door that could open to a form of endless absence
that makes everything hum, like a swarm of shiny insects
in the forest of language. And if we could sing then
silently, with them. It's like the swish of grass
or like the distant chattering we thought we heard
but maybe made up as we watched thousands
and thousands of swallows rise up and swirl back down
to splash into the lake for a moment, swirl back
into the sky, then down again—over
and over as they moved in a flock of ever higher loops
until they flew off and away, and the lake
lay flat again, reflecting only the sky,
as we fell back into our ordinary minds
and our bodies that were humming now, dangerously alive
in their meat and memories, and easily lost
in whatever moment came next, or the moment after that.
The Flood
Michael Hettich

The Flood

Michael Hettich

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