Striding down the street, I make my heart
speed up. We have a deal:
It pumps to keep me walking, and
I walk to keep it pumping.
Less than a precision-drilled machine, my heart
holds the fingerprints and scratches, scars from years of work
Standing upright, walking forward, bending backward to make
just one more idea work, to push life into place,
exhausted or defeated, but
exhilarated by the outcome;
not what I expected but amazing just the same.
This heart has teeth marks on it, pieces missing, ripped out
by greedy mouths, teeth of the needy wanting some free muscle power.
Bones are too hard, or they’d suck the marrow down their gulping throats,
pushing, pulling “More, it’s not enough,” they find the weak spot in the heart,
thinking that inside must be the gift they want,
Whatever it is. They don’t know, but I owe it to them, owe it now.
Slower, gasping for breath, I keep on walking but it’s uphill,
and harder for the weight.
Those fingerprints marring the surface of my heart are snagging,
pulling the beating thing out of my chest. See all the years of wear?
Nicks and dents of love pursued, love lost, love found and then thrown back:
A fish too small, a fish too mean, a bottom feeder that broke the line.
Escaped, leaving the barbed hook curved through my heart
instead of in his pulsing gills.
There is no saving of a heart, no holding back.
I am the one who said, “Yes, touch it, it can take it,” and then pulled back
when I saw the blood-dark fingerprints left on the pulsing surface.
My brittle heart is no precision-milled machine.
It was a fragile seedpod from another world.
This time around, the thorny kernels of trapped time
fling through my legs and hands, root in my chest,
urging me forward into growth I am not sure I want.
* * *
—Quinn McDonald marvels at her heart’s endurance.