Max Heinegg

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My wife is playing “He Kissed Me”
in the kitchen. I love this song, she says
but then remembers the producer is
a murderer. A genius, we agree,
but a murderer.

The music echoes in the living
room, dulcet and clean
as its panoramic production.
The snap of snare drum, the crystalline 
presentation of each instrument

in its own orbit, made lovely
by one man’s gravity, his
invisible control
of each heavenly body’s position.

A Dream, Three Months After

My dead father showers in the next room.
I’m washing the individual
fake teeth in the sink. Six porcelain,
beside his real teeth, much smaller. 
I think he will dry and put them back in.

Should I be doing this?
I don’t want to embarrass him but the teeth
left close to the drain must be washed.
I hear the shower loudly, knowing the house
only has baths, claw-footed tubs I saw him rise from.

When all the teeth are clean, I walk between
his two bedrooms, the one he last inhabited
and the one he once shared with my mother.
On the rug, in each room I see a bottle of red wine
stand two-thirds empty. When she visits,

she talks to me about the drunken wound
of his she did not see initially, an inch deep
in his armpit where the skin is softest,
that she kept cleaning. The gash
he could not remember suffering.

In the afternoon, hearing this talk,
my wife and I wince, knowing why
he could not walk at the end, and by then,
I have, of course, awoken from the dream
of washing the part of the skeleton nearest

to the tongue that made these memories,
the part that if he was found dead would be
used to identify him. I know what it means
and why in this way my spirit wakes me
to write this down before I forget.

To a Friend Who Believes in Fate

There’s a sound the one fate makes
when she picks up the thread
to stretch out kismet

or when she turns to see how much
her sister has unspooled
which is the same a fearing father makes

outside the operating room
when he sees the surgeon, marked by the blood
of a saved daughter, as they raises their mask

and smile, unaware they are observed,
for a moment forgetting it’s a time of sickness,
pleased to pride by life-changing skill.

I know how you must feel, wanting
to believe you are watched over.
When wheel raises you to its acme,

that’s the place you’d like to stay,
a comfort you’d elaborate into justice
in the high wings of birds your eyes admire

but other days you’d fear were following
you to feast. Now, honor the calendar,
the moment of fortune you’re in,

and choose not to notice when the wheel does
nothing but spin, the brutal rule to which
the godsent days are exception.


Max Heinegg lives and teaches in Medford, MA. His poems have appeared in The Cortland Review, 32 Poems, Thrush, Nimrod, and Love's Executive Order.