My Purple Heart

In college biology, we saw two cadavers,
regular people who donated their bodies
to science. One was a man, the other a woman,
but so much the same once opened up
for our cautiously curious eyes. Our professor
explained the man’s heart
was enlarged due to years of abuse–
I think, maybe Big Macs and milkshakes
and years of sitting in a corner office.
The woman’s, by comparison, was petite,
compact, like the hearts of the chickens
butchered on my childhood farm.

If my chest were sliced, ribs spread
open, organs exposed, what would my heart
look like? Stretchmarks, for certain,
veining my heart walls since
the day he was born, instant expansion
as I looked upon his face, felt
the heat of his new body burn
my hands as I held him.

Would the students who gather and gaze
at my fragile egg of a heart see
the fine cracks feathered faintly
like a net? Each fine line
a record of days, despair and disappointment
tap-tapping a pattern
on its walls until only a membrane of will
holds it together? Would they see the scar tissue
tough like rind? Bruises
deep purple and still pulsing.

In my poor tired heart, there is a chamber
carved out like water does to rock,
worn down and empty from each wave
of terror that sluices through
when he is ill, when his body seizes,
and his mind retreats, reboots,
when I sit in waiting rooms, doctors’ offices,
beside pulsing machines that scan and probe
his brain. Perhaps someday a “why”
will work to heal this crack in my heart,
but if not, scientists will marvel
at the phenomenon that, for years,
my heart kept beating while broken.

2 thoughts on “My Purple Heart

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