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About this Poem 

 “A lot of my poems are the first expression of something I’ve been thinking about for years. It takes years to notice I’m wondering and then years to think of speaking it, then one day I sit down to write poetry and somehow say it. It’s great because now I can think about it more vividly. In this case, when people die—friends or famous—we may see them differently, but why does each side seem truer than the other?”
— Jennifer Michael Hecht

When They Die We Change Our Minds About Them


When they die we change our minds 
about them. While they live we see 
the plenty hard they’re trying,
to be a star, or nice, or wise, 
and so we do not quite believe them. 

When they die, suddenly they are 
what they claimed. Turns out, 
that’s what one of those looks like. 

The cold war over manner of manly 
or mission is over. Same person, 
same facts and acts, just now 
a quiet brain stem. We no longer 
begrudge his or her stupid luck.

When they die we change our minds 
about them. I will try to believe 
while you yet breathe.

Copyright © 2014 by Jennifer Michael Hecht. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on April 22, 2014. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Copyright © 2014 by Jennifer Michael Hecht. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on April 22, 2014. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Jennifer Michael Hecht

Jennifer Michael Hecht

Jennifer Michael Hecht is a historian and poet. She is the author of three poetry collections: Who Said (Copper Canyon Press, 2013); Funny (University of Wisconsin Press, 2005), winner of the 2005 Felix Pollak Prize; and The Next Ancient World (Tupelo Press, 2001), winner of the Poetry Society of America’s Norma Farber First Book Award and the Tupelo Press Judge’s Prize in Poetry. She teaches at The New School and lives in Brooklyn, New York.

by this poet

poem

How to read a tome of Collected Poems?
Read one that pivotally changes you
and lose track of the page and title.
How to clean a house? Lose your ring in it.

Milosz not having to make peace one day
because the people are dead, nor revisit
some cities of his blood, because they are

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