Marah Hager, "I'll Be My Own Cardiologist"

Books say to carry wounds like armor.

People deserve gaping, black holes. Personal evidence

that words can break bone and people will sink teeth in like a regression on the evolutionary line.

(Just because there is a belief in God

does not mean there is not an animal within.)

Books say to shoulder the past until the finish line.

There, it will die with you. (Sometimes.)

It’s a rite of passage.

You will have met the right person when he reaches out

and folds the trembling visages of your heart back into the appropriate design.

His design.

The scars will linger, fester in silences that tug and pull

and reach out greedy for infection, religious tainted assumptions.

Hands will be soaked in red,

but you will not know how to wash out the stains from your t-shirts.

Iron the art produced by a broken heart onto the back of your winter coat.

Every time the weather gets cold, think of what happened to rip out your veins.

Your pulmonary artery will never be the same.

Don’t bury it down.

Keep it as vivid as the smell of your aunt’s perfume and the color of your sister’s hair.

Never even try for healing.

If it is meant to be, someone will show up on Sunday.

He will press his bible-scented palms to your chest,

reach in with fingers as cold and as steady as an open-heart surgeon,

and staple the ragged muscle back into the appropriate design.

His design.

Don’t trust yourself in this world.

You are not strong enough to stand in front of the mirror and pry

open your ribcage to let out the aching.

Mirrors are distortions of perceptions.

You must not believe the sight of your heart, there in your chest,

Still Beating.

(Everyone knows you are dying.)

If you see yourself standing there in a vision of human empowerment,

you may believe that you can save yourself.

Stitch up your own chest.

Watch the bleeding as it begins to clot.

Take out the threads after

the flesh has knitted itself together.

You can go on,

thinking of the scars only on Sundays when the man across the street knocks on the door,

offers to spread open your ribcage, and heal the most delicate part of your humanity.

Slam the door in his face. You will be okay.

Realize that there is something satisfying about picking up your broken heart

and stitching it back together; waking up to find

that all the angry red lines are gone

and only the traces of sun are left on your skin.

There is a freckle on your right knee, a scar on your elbow,

but your heart is unblemished.