They cut open his chest
and split the ribs, stitched
bits of leg veins
to the outside of his heart,
patched it all together
and stapled him shut,
sent him home.
Now he feels a turbulence
like a bird fluttering inside him.
As if his heart’s old house
has a bad door that won’t close,
shudders in the wind.
I place the cold, hard coin
of my stethoscope on his bare chest,
touching down on each of the four places,
medical school’s rote lessons a thing of habit
as I listen for the Tennessee…
Tennessee... of a stiffened ventricle,
of congestive failure.
Systole, diastole… lub-
dub . . .lub-dub… ,
I count ten healthy beats,
watch him breathe.
Perhaps it was the two hours on bypass,
the six weeks he missed work
for the first time in his life, or
how like an infant he needed others
to help him rise from a chair,
take his first steps around the unit.
I fold away my stethoscope.
He traces the pink zipper of a scar
down the front of his chest,
tells me he’s been married to the same woman
almost fifty years, has a son
who sells life insurance,
a daughter in Topeka, three grandkids.
And now I hear it, too.
How his heart that once said...today
…today…now seems to say
remember me…remember me…
by Peter Pereira