Poem: Portrait of the Heart as a Trooper by Susan Taylor

Portrait of the Heart as a Trooper

++++++++++for Dr Stephen Hopwood of the Arcuturus Clinic, Totnes

I have said much about my heart:
how she misbehaved,
++++++++++++++++++++as if
she might flee from between my ribs,
fluttering ever so lightly, lightly
like the draughts from a bee’s wings,
how she played invisible bedlam
till I could hardly place foot forward,
how a kind of electrical army
stormed through her atrium,
++++++++++++++to do battle.

She listens to me tapping away
++++++++++++++the worn keys
and she wants to butt in –
interject this is not playing fair,
she’s not the villain of this piece,
just look at the shit I get myself in,
++++++++++++++the real shit
outside my door.

She’ll have the last say,
as hearts invariably do.
Once, I was schooled by a sage
dressed in rainbow silks.
++++++++++++++He taught me
to praise every organ I have,
but mostly the one who was playing up.
“Remember she’s doing her very best!”
Master Choy taught me
to sing these songs for my heart.
++++++++++++++And it’s true,
she’s done well now,
I’m in good heart.

++++++++++++++But once,
I joined an American site
on her preoccupation, the spooky fibrillation,
with graphic descriptions of how,
++++++++++++++at the worst,
she could turn into wobbling jelly.
We don’t look at posts like that anymore.
They’re too scary for me;
put the frighteners on her.

It’s a while since they wheeled us into crash,
++++++++++++++just in case.
Prescription drugs were never our thing,
digitalis downed me, almost stopped her.
She goes for acupuncture pins and
++++++++++++++Chinese herbs.
She’s chosen this path and sticks to it.

Yesterday I was stretched out
on the familiar treatment table
and a little later than normal,
after the points came out, she streamed
++++++++++++++a small ribbon
of scarlet from the centre of my chest.
Just for once, this allowed me
to mop up a bit of her warmth out of me,
while my good physician’s back was turned.
The blood felt good, trustworthy
++++++++++++++and true.
I handed him her bright signature
on a feathery scrap
I tore from the paper beneath me.


This poem was first published in the very limited edition pamphlet, This Given.


Susan Taylor lives on Dartmoor. Her latest poetry collection is Temporal Bones from Oversteps Books. A new work, The Weather House, written with poet Simon Williams, appeared recently from Indigo Dreams. Watch out for The Weather House poetry show in 2018! www.susantaylor.co.uk


Our JustGiving page is open for donations to the Children’s Heart Surgery Fund – no amount is too small if you feel moved to support.

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