Heart Failure
It started at 6 years old - - - Leslie Baldwin
with her wind-blue eyes, kissing me on the bus,
some instantaneous undoing
in the chest - - - - light rushing out of me
as she held her binder up to block the driver's view,
as I ran around trying to catch my breath,
feeling the clouds rising
as I was unsealed from my bones
a moment, and it all skipped out of time
for the first time then.
                                        Soon, I'd never see
her again among dry oak leaves and palms,
a mist through my teens and crazy twenties.
What I thought was something
failing beneath the ribs was nothing
more than the cartilage of desire pulled predictably
out of place. I was one more kid hard-wired
with longing, with some intermittent voltage
through to middle age when everything packed
about my bones began to push the pump overtime,
building up the walls, leaving the gizmo less room
to function, which started to short
the efficient exchange of air and full pulmonary
reciprocation. I never had a chance.

Next thing, I'm standing 3rd from the left
in the 40th reunion photo, all my pals with beta blockers
and ace inhibitors - - - one friend, with a pig's valve
substituted for his leaky one, didn't make it.
And now I've got a pulsar in my chest
straightening out the electric mumble,
the concertina suck-back and wheeze - - -
a 60,000 dollar titanium transmitter
with added shock value to set you straight
should the circuitry hit a snafu, the ventricle
spasm for love, loss of blood, or fatigue.
God, some say, gave me this wonky time-keeper - - -
tin can on a tow rope behind a car
banging along the street in broken rhythm.
What I do know is that beyond the clinic
there are no guardian angels looking into my file.
The virus that inflated my heart
like a bad sausage, like the next thing
to a hand grenade, was just part of the anarchy
of atoms let go to add up, we assume, to something
that makes sense, seems deserved. But philosophy
never filled a cup. The energy of the cosmos
is never lost, only changes form, takes your breath away.
A former student jokes that I'm a Cyborg now,
although everything I love on earth demands
an old school iambic meter to hold us
here, to steady and slow the rotation of the stars
red-shifted, and forever moving away.

--- Christopher Buckley
Star Journal: Selected Poems

©2016 University of Pittsburgh Press
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