Call the Clock
I was a little envious. I’d only ever had one
and he— cat o’ hearts—he had nine.
He traded them in every time they got broken.
once a bad aorta, the other time, too much pressure.
Once, they called it sickness congestive, as though
his heart had backed itself up like any bad drain
and was taking on water. One girl who gave him
her heart was younger than an egg and her heart beat
shell-smoothly for him. She’d asked to kiss him
one last time but for fear of infection, he kept his
lips closed. It’s better to love quietly, he said.
She nodded and gave until it hurt.
Heart after heart
he goes under. Dreamily. By the time he’s to five,
his chest cracks open on its own as if he’s the one offering
his heart up for reparations although it’s the thing lacking.
He took the hearts in, one after the other: rejection.
It goes as it always goes—a near cannibalism. But, I say,
look at that organ, sounding smooth as a cat-o-nine tail.
It whispers along reed, greens in the wind. Spring beats
his skillfully sutured heart while my once-dumb heart,
little morel, stitched up at home by dental floss
and no sleep, makes so much noise. I hear the blood
pushing and the valves slurring. Stop talking, I tell it,
you’ll give us away. I will trade you in for a young, mute
girl’s. You think I have to keep you but I know where
they keep the list. I know how to get bumped to the top:
Crack the shell. See how the bright yolk trumps dull sound.
Nicole Walker is the author of This Noisy Egg (Barrow Street Press, 2010). Her poetry and creative nonfiction have appeared in Ploughshares, North American Review, Bellingham Review, Fence, Iowa Review, Fourth Genre, Ninth Letter, and Crazyhorse, among other places. She teaches at Northern Arizona University.