What The Heart Tells Us
Do you remember how, despite the rain,
one day last autumn we followed the gravel road
to the cemetery where we traced our fingers
over androgynous faces of angels, their wings brushing sky,
and we made love in honour of the woman whose faded stone
lay beneath us, a woman remembered only as Mary—Wife
of Cotton Fletcher. She would have been 187 that year.
I remember staring at a seraph’s face, his head turned
upward, eyes distant, as if watching for the Second Coming.
When I die, I said, I will be a hungry ghost.
As a child I’d spend hours in the garden digging trenches,
packing mounds of soil, building bridges with twigs
and branches. When everything seemed just right
I’d play Jehovah, solemnly pronouncing, Let there be
a great flood, as I turned on the hose, felt the mud
slide beneath me. Mesmerized by disaster, I watched
ants struggle in the current. Or I’d catch hornets
in a jar, watch the black and yellow blur of their bodies,
shredded wings beating glass.
Last night on the news, a man who has set the ladders
of DNA to music said the human heart plays a dirge.
Even if he’s wrong, I believe him. I believe the heart
understands grief, forces us to name each loss and count it out
like prayer. And maybe we can’t ever really make love.
When I held you in that graveyard it was because I was afraid
of losing you amid such overwhelming loss. Maybe the games
we play as children anticipate futures where friends die,
lovers leave, we are left alone. Perhaps this is what our hearts
mean to tell us, every molecule like beads of liquid silver,
strung in the shape of goodbye.