As for you, my galvanized friend, you want a heart. You don’t
know how lucky you are not to have one. Hearts will never be
practical until they can be made unbreakable.
—The Wizard of Oz
I know a man whose heart is not his own,
who at thirty slowly became statuary,
gray stranger, until that lump of muscle
from another was rib-spread, vein-sewn,
paddle-shocked into his chest. Common
miracle. The meds to keep his system
from objecting to this fortunate,
strange piece move through his kidneys,
which, over ten years, will tire of the chore.
In Boccaccio, women salt their dead lovers’
hearts with their tears, carry them in golden cups.
Guillaume’s wife eats the organ, unknowing.
Ghismonda pours poison over it and drinks.
It’s all the same: ache, attack, murmur, failure.
A yogi believes in red lotus blossoms unfurling.
In pictures, Jesus exposes his Sacred Heart,
the cloak of his body turned inside-out
to show the stitching: a flaming pomegranate,
braceleted by thorns.
Since he was sewn together, my friend has helped
make two children—two aorta, two tricuspid valves,
all the wrench-and-socket pieces needed.
Let the necessary poison move through him
as long as it can. Our ticker is not meat
and mainspring but measure and limit.
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.