Recent Work By Hans Hetrick

We fight like fighters
should, not to kill,

but to batter. With blunt
stumps of ourselves,

we ram into another.
We pull open overcoats

and expose failure,
knock books off shelves

and throw furniture.
Neighbors pound

the walls angry for peace.
This is how we come

together. Old flames
spark up. All grace

goes under. Long
hollow roots stretch

through our hearts,
on the surface, rotted

stumps without sensation.
Trees get yanked

and the stumps must
burn. Across the heart’s

meadow, smoke rises
from stumps’ center

the soil is rich with ash.
We fight to hurt.

We fight to become tender.

So poetry, what the hell is that all about? No one in our family was particularly literary, unless you count Dad reading us “The Cow Jumped Over the Moon.”

It was Yusef Komunyakaa’s “Facing It”, during our second go at college, that clinched it. It was similar to listening to the Stones and desperately wanting to lay my fingers on some guitar strings and become part of that tremendous force of rock and roll. Komunyakaa transported new and revealing thoughts and feelings into our body, mind, and soul. Afterwards, I wanted to learn how to give everyone that same magical experience that Komunyakaa had just given me. Harness the power of the muse, I suppose.

If I remember, you and I had our young hearts set on playing linebacker for the Cleveland Browns.

Yeah. You were too small and I was too slow, but together we won Most Improved Player of the Year on a tiny backwater high school football team. It really was a lot of fun.

So, now you write poetry. Can you imagine our old linebacker buddy A. J. Young’s face if we told him we’ve become a poet?

He’d laugh his ass off.

Exactly. And call us a pussy.

If I remember A. J., he never took anything too seriously—that’s one of the many reasons he could run over people like a mad bull. He also always had our back—in every circumstance. He’d have fun with the poet thing, but in the end, he could care less.

So you don’t feel bad for disappointing A. J., our good, old, dependable friend, and becoming a wuss?

You are truly a moron. Ask some questions you really want to know the answer too.

Okay. So what has your poetry done for us?

Understanding and empathy – of ourselves and the people we write about. And, if the poems are any good, the people who read the poems might get a little of the same.

Sounds like a colossal waste of time. Okay, what has poetry done for me?

Did you forget about the women? The ladies who respected and rewarded our poetic talents.

We got women before you started spending three hours deciding whether to use the word “drops” or the word “falls” in a poem. We were in good shape before this poetry nonsense too. I blame our double chin on you.

Those pre-poetry girls weren’t much fun in bed. And neither were we.

True. But dating some of them artistic ladies is like carrying a sack of mountain lions through a butcher shop.

We’ll find that lady who loves us, not our skill sets, but for just us—a lady who is both complex and balanced.

Just like us right?

Ha. Yeah, exactly. We have met a lot of amazing and interesting people through poetry.

I’ll give you that. But we’ve also met a lot of interesting and amazing people as an electrician, bartender, furniture mover, etc… Come to think of it, I also blame you for not being able to hold down a real job.

We’ve had the same 9 to 5 job for four years. Pay’s decent. And it’s a writing job. I’m getting better at writing, and you’re getting your sense of security and status stroked with a solid paycheck and health insurance. Wasn’t that the deal?

It was, but when do you have time to write poetry? We could be using that time for financial schemes and hollow gratification.

Selfishness isn’t going to fulfill us or anyone else.

Don’t get high and mighty with me. What does poetry do for the greater good?

It reaches out and asks to share experiences and dreams and sentiments. It’s proof we’re not alone, and that knowledge is comforting and nourishing. Poetry is also a celebration of and a contribution to the evolution of language—humankind’s greatest gift.

Congratulations. 0.0001% of America is proud of you.

Although your statistics are skewed, that’s sad and true. We should probably talk about the poetry we write. This is an opportunity to get our poems out there.

Yes and then we can become one of the three poets in America who make a living wage on their poetry. All right, let’s do it. Who are your influences?

Here’s an uncomprehensive list: Jane Kenyon, Phillip Levine, Michael Ryan, Whitman and Dickinson of course, Sharon Olds, Jack Gilbert, Richard Hugo, James Wright (I am an Ohio boy at heart), Stephen Dunn, Edward Micus (mentor), Richard Robbins (mentor), Terrance Hayes, and many others.

Why these poets?

I think they’re all compact (excepting Whitman) and incredibly potent. Their poems are so much larger than the time it takes to read them. They linger and expand as they sit with you after you’ve taken them in.

What about you, outside of writing, do you make use of in your poetry?

We were, and still are, very physical in nature. We respond to movement and touch deeply. I think the poems try to reflect that. They aspire to be as visceral as possible. And that comes into the poems through the subject matter (describing the physical) and the sounds. All those deep and long vowels and chunky consonants, those single syllable Anglo-Saxon and Germanic words, they help to make a physical music. Robert Frost’s poems are wonderful for those words.

What do you hope your readers get out of the poems?

First of all, I thank them for picking up the poem. I’m grateful for their time, which is precious. I want them to get what I get from the poetry I love: a door to a bigger world, a shared experience, beautiful (or interesting) language, and an indescribable understanding of the human condition.

Good luck with that brother.

Thanks. Good luck back.