Kerrin McCadden

winner of the Vermont Book Award (2015)


How the Heart Works


I keep thinking about the way the heart works,
but I think about it wrong, on purpose, the way
I do other things on purpose that I shouldn't,
like one-click shop for books that wait for me
like dogs in cardboard coats until I come home
for them and let them in. No, I keep thinking
about the heart, the one my mother has.
There are all kinds of words for it, words
her doctor says, words she repeats to me
about what’s wrong with it. I see her, on the phone,
tied to the wall by a coiled cord, the doctor
blue-toothed on the other end, telling
her what is happening inside her ribcage,
the one I keep seeing like an ornate birdcage
someone has planted a tiny-leafed ivy
inside, hanging in the corner, or at
the edge of the fireplace, on a tiny table,
long spindly legs and a top as small
as a book, not as the housing it is for the heart
that does all kinds of things wrong, things
I can't know, no matter how many times the aorta
of it is repeated, no matter which
carotid phone call ends in semi-lunar
valves, there are always left and right atria,
greenhouses of the heart, the tricuspid valve-way
opening onto the patio my father has turned
over, stone by stone, so it looks new,
and pulmonary arteries growing like
hydrangea, there, outside the glass ventricle.

© 2010, Dzanc Books

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