A colleague tells me of her ER patient,
status-post gunshot to the chest.
How hyperdynamic the heart was,
though a thick, loculated clot
amassed in the pericardial casing.
How the patient pointed to the pain:
red wound, fifth intercostal space.
It was starlike, the small, reflective slug
crouched in its own echolucent shine.
He was alone on the gurney and without
family, the young man who refused police
a description of the car that fired and sped away.
As if to protect someone. As if his shooter
were more a community than the police
our country fashioned of itself. Deindustrialized.
Segmented. Unconscious by an unlit home
with barred windows and hand-written sign
that read “daycare.” No exit. Reverberation
artifact. Neon, auto-bodied sky.
Akinetic on glass-strewn sidewalks, amen.
Same moon as anywhere, amen.
The bullet entered the heart and stopped there.

Copyright © 2023 by Paul Hlava Ceballos. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 23, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.