Hecht, Jennifer Michael

United States, (contemporary)

My Hero

  1. It’s O.K. to keep hearing your worries, so long as you
  2. stop talking to them. Shun them like a double-crossed Quaker.
  3.  
  4. Imagine how quiet it would be, like shutting off the droning ocean.
  5. That’s how our parasites must feel about our hearts.
  6. What a racket, all that pumping. Shut up shut up.
  7.  
  8. Cicero said Chrysippus said that the life in a pig is a preservative,
  9. keeping it fresh until we want to eat it. What then is life in us?
  10.  
  11. Chrysippus wrote more than seven hundred books, none survive.
  12. (We have his bio in the Diogenes Laertius “Lives,” and small
  13. comments like the one Cicero preserved, about the pig.)
  14.  
  15. Imagine how much the man talked. Imagine how his daughters
  16. felt, sitting in cafés, virgins listening to young lawyers. Lawyer
  17.  
  18. ready to move from mom to virgin ears, to part the aural curtain
  19. to the heart of the flesh, to grease up and force his listener to stay,
  20.  
  21. pressure like a fork, squeezed down inner tubes to hidden narrow
  22. chambers. The daughters, who could not listen anymore, worked
  23. into first-date conversation, “Of course I’ve had it in the ear before.”
  24.  
  25. There were no second dates. Fierce Chrysippus sisters, full of hate.
  26. There were no surrenders. That’s why I’m so tender about my
  27. resignation. Because all these years later a nation of one feels
  28. like one too many. Caesar was tough, but not by himself
  29. did he conquer Gaul. The superlative for all alone is all.

© Jennifer Michael Hecht. The New Yorker. June 27, 2009.

Chicken Pig

  1. It’s like being lost
  2. in the forest, hungry, with a
  3. plump live chicken in your cradling
  4. arms: you want to savage the bird,
  5. but you also want the eggs.
  6.  
  7. You go weak on your legs.
  8. What’s worse, what you need
  9. most is the companionship,
  10. but you’re too hungry to know that.
  11. That is something you only know after
  12. you’ve been lost a lot and always,
  13.  
  14. eventually, alit upon
  15. your bird; consumed her
  16. before you’d realized what
  17. a friend she’d been, letting you
  18. sleep-in late on the forest floor
  19. though she herself awoke
  20. at the moment of dawn
  21.  
  22. and thought of long-lost
  23. rooster voices quaking
  24. the golden straw. She
  25. looks over at you, sleeping,
  26. and what can I tell you, she loves
  27. you, but like a friend.
  28.  
  29. Eventually, when lost
  30. in a forest with a friendly chicken
  31. you make a point of emerging
  32. from the woods together,
  33. triumphant; her, fat with bugs,
  34. you, lean with berries.
  35.  
  36. Still, while you yet wander,
  37. you can not resist telling her
  38. your joke:
  39.  
  40. Guy sees a pig with three legs,
  41. asks the farmer, What gives?
  42. Farmer says, That pig woke
  43. my family from a fire, got us all out.
  44. Says the guy, And lost the leg thereby?
  45. Nope, says the farmer,
  46. Still had all four when he took
  47. a bullet for me when I had
  48. my little struggle with the law.
  49. Guy nods, So that’s where
  50. he lost his paw? Farmer shakes
  51. it off, says, Nah, we fixed him up.
  52. A pause, guy says, So how’d he lose
  53. the leg? Farmer says, Well, hell,
  54. a pig like that
  55. you don’t eat all at once.
  56.  
  57. Chicken squints. Doesn’t think
  58. it’s funny.

© Jennifer Michael Hecht. Poetry. (July 2005).

About the Poet

Jennifer Michael Hecht (contemporary) is a U.S. author, poet, philosopher and historian. Her scholarly articles and poetry have been published in many journals and magazines. Hecht has also written columns and book reviews for The New York Times. Other book reviews have appeared in The Washington Post, The American Scholar and other publications.

Hecht earned her Ph.D. in the History of Science and European Cultural History from Columbia University in 1995. She teaches at The New School University and lives in Brooklyn with her husband John, and their two children. [DES-7/09]

Additional information:

  • www.jennifermichaelhecht.com/
  • The Lion and the Honeycomb
  • Books:
    • The Happiness Myth (Harper One, 2007).
    • Funny (University of Wisconsin Press, 2005).
    • Doubt: A History (Harper San Francisco, 2003).
    • The End of the Soul (Columbia University Press, 2003).
    • The Next Ancient World (Tupelo Press, 2001).

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