From the Archive: The Saturday Rumpus Essay: I Left My Heart in Taos


This was originally published at The Rumpus on October 22, 2016.

What isn’t in the brochure; what doesn’t come from your cousin’s mouths; what never gets discussed is that you might speak a piece of yourself and leave it at the overlook’s hip-high rails just above the truss of a bridge over the Rio Grande.

You’re in Taos. But you’re not in Taos.

You might gasp. You might gasp and your heart slips out. You whisper and let red willows drift toward the river.

You read the Sharpie-black letters. They might read something like:

“The Universe Knows You and Loves U”


Down the way a metal box reads:




You think, Can I do this now? My cousins are right across the road. Can I do this now? No, now is not the time.”

You want to make the call. You want to push the buzzer. You have an affinity for things that sit on the ends of spectrums, those longer wavelengths.

But there are so many notes and odes and eulogies etched, scraped, screeched, and bled into the railings, so many notes that speak to love and hope and sorrow and grief. I should have brought a lock and locked myself up.

I step away from the railing.


I step into July. I spend most of July sleeping. I spend most of July sleeping and planning. I spend most of July planning a way back to the Rio Grande Gorge.

I spend some time on the Internet.

I spend some time researching different bridges.

I start a poem about learning a dance that involves six hundred steps.

It sounds so complicated but it isn’t.

I start a poem about learning how to fall six hundred feet to my death.

But that’s too romantic. My body doesn’t work well with romance.

My body aches at romance. My body aches at the sight of roses. My body breaks at the thought of petals ripped from Styrofoam pistils:

I love me. I love me not. I love me. I love me not.


It’s August and I’ve begun to look up how to procure a concealed carry license.

It’s August and I’ve begun to look up how to procure a gun.

I’ve already written a poem about this. I’ve already written this. I’ve already done this. It’s been a decade since the last psych ward visit.

But that poem involved a rope. But it wasn’t a rope. It was a yellow Ethernet cord.

Except it wasn’t an Ethernet cord; it was a basketball net.

But in the psych ward it wasn’t a basketball net; it was a telephone cord, a spiral, blue cord that I unclipped from the community phones. They removed the cords after that. I was on watch after that.

I didn’t hang myself. I just needed to know if I could. And I could.

But these memories are blurring. And I could be telling you the truth but all these memories are blurring. My dreams are blurring.

It’s August and I’ve realized that something is wrong. All this planning is planning is planning is planning.

It’s August and I’m more scared to be awake than I am of being asleep.

You should know I have a new kidney. It’s twenty-eight years old. I’m thirty-seven years old. And I am buzzed up right now as I write this story.


It’s August and I have begun to take new medicine: CYMBALTA:

Cymbalta (duloxetine) is a selective serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor antidepressant (SSNRI). Duloxetine affects chemicals in the brain that can be unbalanced in people with depression.

Cymbalta is used to treat major depressive disorder in adults. It is also used to treat general anxiety disorder in adults and children who are at least 7 years old.

Cymbalta is also used in adults to treat fibromyalgia (a chronic pain disorder), or chronic muscle or joint pain (such as low back pain and osteoarthritis pain).

Cymbalta is also used to treat pain caused by nerve damage in adults with diabetes (diabetic neuropathy).



It’s August and Cymbalta has wrecked my body. I’ve lost six pounds in three days. My body has become a desert, a wadi, an arroyo; my body­­—it’s cracking for a river.

I read a story about an underwater panther. I saw one in the chemical structure of Duloxetine. We are all starving for water:



It’s the end of August and I started a new medication: ABILIFY:

Abilify (aripiprazole) is an antipsychotic medication. It works by changing the actions of chemicals in the brain.

Abilify is used to treat the symptoms of psychotic conditions such as schizophrenia and bipolar I disorder (manic depression). It is not known if aripiprazole is safe or effective in children younger than 13 with schizophrenia, or children younger than 10 with bipolar disorder.

Abilify is also used together with other medicines to treat major depressive disorder in adults.

Abilify is also used in children 6 years or older who have Tourette’s disorder, or symptoms of autistic disorder (irritability, aggression, mood swings, temper tantrums, and self-injury).



It’s September now and my mental health nurse is on leave, so I see a new nurse, but she still has not said what is wrong with me. I’ve been awake for twenty-four hours and I don’t see any end in sight.

I still want a gun. There’s a gun show later this month. Later this month

There’s a cemetery down the road. It’s surrounded by a bunch of tall, white cedars.

But it’s September and the thoughts are falling away.

I want to tell you that I am left now with red willows still blooming.

I want to tell you that I am left now with Sangre de Christo.

I want to tell you that I am left without a heart because I left it in Taos.

But that’s too much poetry.

Besides, it wasn’t Taos. It was a bridge with hip-high rails.

Above the truss above the river above the gorge above.

The only place I’ve ever seen God.


Image credits: Feature photo. All additional photographs provided by author.

b: william bearhart is a direct descendent of the St Croix Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin, a graduate from the Lo Rez MFA program at the Institute of American Indian Arts, and currently works as a poker dealer in a small Wisconsin casino when not writing or editing. His work can be found in Boston Review, North American Review, Prairie Schooner, and Tupelo Quarterly, among others. More from this author →