Constantly they fail—
those fist-sized lumps of tissue
that pound on and on for decades,
untrained to do anything
but keep the beat
while the body that surrounds them
begins to contemplate its limits.
And unlike oil changers or burger flippers
there isn’t help for the heart on every corner.
No drop-off or drive-through service
for the transplant or triple bypass.
The heart surgeon has a heart of his own—
enormous and brave,
fueling his skilled hands
as they cut open the hearts of others
that have decided to slow down or call it quits.
He answers prayers more reliably than god.
Wherever he goes
he is praised and envied,
except for home—
where guilt is an unexpected byproduct
of an education so complete
he’s beholden to it.
Years ago, when he gave his heart away
to that beautiful girl who said yes,
he couldn’t have imagined how many times
he’d need to apologize
for saving a life—
for missing birthday parties and airplanes
that would have sent him up to pierce the air
like a needle that might have stitched
together those thick layers of his absence.
How epic it is— the fragile and enduring heart.
Even when it’s working properly, it’s a pitiful thing.
Usually, the only thing wrong is how needy it is—
how much it wants,
how much it just can’t bear.
How little it takes
to break it.