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David Clewell

By This Poet

1

Not to Mention Love: A Heart for Patricia

Not one more figure of speech, I promise,
not here, under the pressing weight of centuries
of metaphors insisting on the heart's unbelievable resemblance
to anything else we know. One more could finally break it
irretrievably, and I don't want that kind of metaphorical blood
on my hands. So this time around, let the heart be the heart
the surgeon discovers when he lays open the chest so gently
it's easy to miss the self-effacing beauty of precision,
the way he comes at it directly, the only way he knows.
And the heart, exposed exactly for what it is: homelier
than we'd like to imagine. And alive beyond compare.
Here, the heart is the heart, and isn't
a fist or a flower or a smooth-running engine
and especially not one of those ragged valentines
someone's cut out, initialed, shot full of cartoon arrows:
the adolescent voodoo of desire. Here nothing's colored
that impossibly red.

There's nothing cute about it. The heart
is the heart, chamber after chamber. Ventricular. Uncooked.
In all its sanguine glory. I couldn't make up a thing
like that. The heart's perfected its daily making do, the sucking
and pumping, its mindless work: sustaining a blood supply
that's got to go around a lifetime.
Sure, there's a brain somewhere, another planet
just seconds or light-years away, and maybe some far-flung
intelligence madly signalling for all it's worth--
but the heart wouldn't know about that. It has its own
evidence to go on. What's convincing to the heart
is only the heart. It doesn't have the luxury of stopping
to weigh, to reconsider, to fold and unfold the raw data of the world
until it's creased beyond recognition. Some days it can't distinguish 
a single sad note from a chorus of exhilaration, but still
the heart has its one answer down to a science: yes. Over
and over, that iambic uh-huh. Whatever it takes, some kind of nerve
or unlikely grace: the heart never knows what to think.

* * *

If this poem has had its moments already
when I haven't been quite as good as my word--
when the heart's been anything less than the heart
or even the tiniest bit more--believe me, I've tried
hard to keep the heart in its proper place for once. It's not
in my mouth or on my sleeve or winging its way lightheartedly
in circles over my head. It's more or less right
where it belongs inside of me, no small thing. And not to mention love
even once by its own name, Patricia:
that's a proposition I never meant to enter into, anywhere.

So when you turn out the light
and this page goes as dark as the room you're lying down in
and for one night at least there are no more distractions,
it's my heart you'll be listening to. And it's yours.
We fit together so well sometimes it's not easy
telling whose lips, whose arms, whose heat in the groin,
whose very good idea. I'm not taking any chances
bigger than the one you've given me--your insistent heart
mixed up with mine: uh-huh, uh-huh, huh-huh,
and my heart has never been the heart it is right now.
It's what we've both been waiting for: I'm asking you
to make of it what you surely will, to take it from here,
in your love beyond these imperfect words, please
take it wherever you're going tonight from here.