Heart. Say it out loud: Heart. Heart. Heart.
A word, said often enough, crosses over into beyond-word-land, when no meaning attaches, or meaning attaches that doesn’t belong to the original word. Heart. Hart. Hurt.
Your young daughter, she of the black river-hair, comes home from school having dissected a sheep’s heart. She split it open and, with her gloved finger, followed her way through the veins and arteries of that glistening organ. She describes how the heart looked, and felt, and smelled.
“Were you quiet when you dissected the heart?” you ask.
What are you really asking? You don’t even know. You ask anyway. How you hope that she will say yes. She looks at you in mild confusion. Then she understands, and so do you. What you are really asking is this: were you respectful?
“We were quiet and we were laughing,” she says. “We were learning and we were having a good time at the same time.”
Tears press against your eyes and there is a lump in your throat. Why? Why? That heart, that once it beat in the chest of a living being. The mystery of a body, laid bare on a table. Don’t laugh. Please don’t laugh.
You were born with one that can leap into high gear, from a slow, slow 60 beats a minute to a racecar, over 200. So fast that it doesn’t really beat. It shakes. Your whole chest vibrates. If you don’t lie flat, stars gather before your eyes, and your ears pound, and darkness slides down as you yourself slide down.
You’ve slid down many times. Down the wall at a party, startling the kilt-wearing man you were talking with. Down to the floor at a funeral. Before a crowd you were reading to. In a car with your mother, who held your hand for many minutes. On your windsurfer, even, out at sea.
And then it’s over.
Up you stand, and on you go, and this is the way it’s been all your life. You don’t think about your heart, your heart, your heart, engine of your body, big strong muscle, pumping the blood that keeps you alive.
Heart, heart, heart.
Heart that pounds with desire. Heart that slows and soothes. Heart that beats you around the lake, pushes you up the mountain, glides you through the water, hurts you through nightmares and skims you through dreams.
Heart, heart, heart, heartheartheart, hearthearthearthearthearthearth, ththththththththththththththththtththththththththththththththththt
Racecar heartheartheart undone and quivering. Chest shivering up and down. See the stars. Close your eyes. Slide down. Down.
Heartheartheart, oh heart, gather yourself. Gather yourself. Remember what you are here for, heart. Big hidden fist, punch out. Keep punching. Hold yourself trembling in this slender cage of ribs. Comfort yourself. Soothe yourself.
Heart. Heart. Heart.
Up you go and on you go.
Keep saying it. Heart. Heart. Heart.
One of those wonderful internet moments; I was browsing Google Images for a picture of wild strawberries, to do a painting as a gift for someone who has blessed me, (who loves the film), I found your photo, then slipped inadvertently onto your blog.
I know your daughter’s embarrassment, I remember that irreverent laughter and feel ashamed of it now. I had tears at the back of my eyes, then read the previous post
This is marvellous writing. I shall certainly be back. What an astonishing, generous place the internet can be…
Lucy, moments like this and people like you are what I love about the internet (blessing and curse that it can be) – connection, across time and space. Now I’m picturing you painting wild strawberries.
Gorgeous picture and prose. Thanks for the heart poem. Heart, heart, heart. Very nice.
How I love the description of your daughter, as the one of the Black river-hair. And your question about the quiet that encompasses respect. You hear your heart in that quiet, and honor it — encourage it to function fully, loving it even in its wild escapades. Today, while swimming, I took a moment to lie face up in the water. With my ears beneath the water I listened to the echoing roar of my breath, like waterfalls within my chest and flowing through my body.