One Heart After Another

a poem by
PHILIP MARTIN | Teacher + Writer


This piece is my attempt to grapple with the grief of miscarriage, and the joy of pregnancy from the perspective of a husband and the Catholic faith. Many tears of mine have been shed in the composition of this particular work. After our miscarriage, our next daughter overcame incredible odds in the womb; her heart kept beating, and today she is three years old. The poem takes the shape of a heart rate monitor, at one point increasing in intensity, then temporarily flat-lining in anticipation at another.

          I opened your chest but
          Your heart had stopped.
Did I not hear it myself
          Beating quickly days before like a snare drum
          Before battle, a call to arms?
          The doctor declared
          Through solemn eyes and lips
          It had to come out

          I opened your chest
          Your heart was missing.
My grief like a sneeze
          Tears rolling over like rapids though yours dripped
          Over days and weeks and
          Into scars.
          The heart was buried.
          You named her

          Through the fear
          You are beautiful.
Your eyes like stars
          That pierce the density of the night skies.
          I opened your chest and found
          A beating heart as
          Precious as a rose petal
          Infused with

          I opened your chest but your heart was sick.
          A blood clot
On an artery swelled like a tumor at
          My fingertips but beyond reach, unrestrained
          And dangerous,
A white parasite on a computer screen.
          The doctor shrugged, this heart could not
A budding flower before an avalanche.

          You prayed
          O God of Justice
          Who gives and takes
          Let this good grow,
          Let this evil be
          Defeated like death!

          I opened your chest.
          Again and again
I peeled away the scars.
          Once, twice, thrice an hour I opened your chest.
          The avalanche retreated from
          The snare drum.
          As quickly as the tide shifts
          By the pull of
          The moon.
          The Hand of God
Had hovered there
          Like the Spirit in the beginning over the waters.
          The clot had dissipated
          Like darkness
          Retreats from a single flame.
          You named her

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