Serving House: A Journal of Literary Arts
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SHJ Issue 16
Spring 2017

The Net

by Michael Hettich

With each breath we take, the ranger said, another animal
somewhere goes extinct, and she spoke the word extinct
crisply, as though she were sharpening something
with her teeth. She looked at us, one by one, 
through her dark glasses. And what can we do
about it? Breathe less? Hardly. The trees
bordering the small field were gleaming in the early 
morning light. There was dew in the grass,
and birds whose names I didn’t know flickered
up and around us, here and there. The vultures
already rising on thermals surveyed
the vast swamp we’d come here to lose ourselves in

to find ourselves alive again, we hoped. I’d long
realized extinctions work inside the body
as well as outside, in the world; I’d mourned 
my own lost species, as creatures that had once lived 
inside me had walked to the edge of what I was
to step off into forever. I’d woken 
every morning with slightly less wilderness inside,
less river-mind and dream-time. And as she spoke on,
this ranger, as she started to lead us toward the trees, 

I remembered one autumn afternoon skipping stones 
with my father, across a pond in the woods, 
when a boy approached us with a net and a frog 
he’d caught there. He grasped the frog firmly and leaned 
to examine its belly and eyes. He held it out 
for us to look at, smiling, then he deftly 
pinched a fishhook and twisted it into 
the frog’s back, which made the frog spasm. He’s fine, 
the boy said with a shrug, grunting as he cast,
then waiting for the nerve-twitching frog to catch a fish

as we turned away. But wouldn’t we both 
have been happy to feast on whatever that boy caught, 
if someone had boned it, and fried it up just right? 

			—for Steve Kowit (1938–2015)


SHJ Issue 16
Spring 2017

Michael Hettich’s

most recent book of poetry, Systems of Vanishing, won the 2013 Tampa Review Prize and was published by University of Tampa Press in 2014. Other books include The Animals Beyond Us (2011) and Like Happiness (2010). A new book, The Frozen Harbor, is forthcoming in 2017 from Red Dragonfly Press.

“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury