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My Heart Became A Heart

On leaving Israel after three years working with pediatric heart patients 

Claude Monet, Impression, Sunrise, 1872


I was quietly counting sunrises,

twisting and smoothing out those feelings

of being here and very far away…


My heart became a heart

when the shape of home exploded

into the blank geometries of loneliness.

I thought I'd missed it forever when

a bolt of familiarity I had never seen

was without explanation part of myself.


My heart became a heart

when the blankets were ripped off,

the alarm clock was buried in snow,

and it became a new question of

pump or freeze. Borrowing beats

from other hearts was plagiarism

for which I was expelled from life.


My heart became a heart

the moment I forgot I had one.

I stopped reading about it in old books,

stopped thinking so seriously about what life is,

Life itself confronting me, caressing and scolding me.

Tranquilizing reflections grotesquely disintegrated,

and clear roads to walk were on the other side.


Yes, my heart became a heart

when it knew its knowing to be wind

and its path wrapped around lime trees,

blossoms tinkling between the evenings,

sun exhaling back to his place.


My heart became a heart

when the music began swaying

sailor songs of another stern war,

erect anthems of another overcorrection,

history tacking forward like a drunk captain

toward an abyss I see with crystal brutality

in myself.


My heart became a heart

when the fluff was pounded out of it.

Dense feather-clouds of phrasal "faith"

were too thick to see for a while as

sheer caverns were gouged into place,

gleaming in darkness heavy with promises.


My heart became a heart

at the shattering of laws that

tattoo worth to my small bones,

as if "success" were ever successful.

The stars were popping like blisters,

radiating new salvations underneath,

pinpricks in the sky of unmuzzled joy.


My heart became a heart

when it understood it would never understand itself

perfectly, all those cardiac metaphors I assigned borders to

slipping the cage of any idea, off into thick sweet jungles

of what I feel but cannot say.


My heart became a heart

not when I sold it to those who would celebrate it

but gave it to those bereft of all happiness and

with no ability to repay. I lost what I thought

I had, thinking that was the end,

never plotting a beginning.


How was I sharing what I had nothing of

with those richer and poorer than me?

How was I hurt in self-protection

and healed in the act of healing?

In the act of finding, found?


And what now? What now?

Was my heart only a heart for a moment?

Does the plastic wrapper now fall back over my eyes?

Do I forget the steps of that wild and unscripted dance,

forget how to ice-climb fragile ecstasies of What If,

forget what I heard then and how I moved

in the beat of your love?


Tired. I am very tired,

and maybe this walk

to the green room

is after the show.


O heart!

Do not apostatize.

Do not forget.

Take the risk to go slow.

Take the risk to listen well.

Take the risk to go insane

with colorful thumping wings,

the unseen violent winter wings

you sensed growing softly once

like the smell of an old bookcase,

back when you were


Quietly counting sunrises,

twisting and smoothing out those feelings

of being here and very far away.


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