Six, seven years ago
when you began to begin to faint
I painted your leg with iodine
threaded the artery
with the needle and then the tube
pumped your heart with dye enough
to see the valve
almost closed with stone.
We were both under pressure.
Today, in your garden,
kneeling under the sticky fig tree
I keep remembering your blood.
Seven, it was. I was just
beginning to learn the heart
Afterward, your surgery
and the precise valve of steel
and plastic that still pops and clicks
inside like a ping-pong ball
I should try
chewing tobacco sometimes
if only to see how it tastes.
There is a trace of it at the corner
of your leathery smile
which insists that I see inside
the house: someone named Bill I’m supposed
to know; the royal plastic soldier
whose body fills with whiskey
and marches on a music box
How Dry l Am;
the illuminated 3-D Christ who turns
into Mary from different angles;
the watery basement,
the pills you take, the ivy
that may grow around the ceiling
if it must. Here, you
are in charge-of figs, beans,
At the hospital, a thousand times
I have heard your heart valve open, close.
I know how clumsy it is.
But health is whatever works
and for as long. I keep thinking
of seven years without a faint
on my way to the car
loaded with vegetables
I keep thinking of seven years ago
when you bled in my hands like a saint.
by John Stone