THE HEART KEEPS ITS OWN COMPANY
I know it’s an anomalous title
but I’m talking about it anyway
on my 47th birthday I think
because I’m thrown by the “7” as symbolic of heaven
while also being a not-quite-but-almost
50 year signifier.
I like to say the years are survivor points, talismans,
as if I’ve mastered a videogame I try to play
well each day, but the truth is I feel a desperation
sometimes to keep going and then at others
a calm washes over like this is great and I could go any minute
And then the in-between strikes that gets me
on the outside looking in like
is this really alive / what is a person / am I adult enough /
how have I lasted so long with so little
glue holding segmented limbs and chapters in sync.
Which leads me to what others say about me.
I was first diagnosed with WPW syndrome
in my 20s by a dude whose name I forget
and nothing to do about it. So my heart was first described
in terms I had no response to but to go on
living and listening to fast flutters as words and worlds unfolded.
In my 30s Dr. Ibrahim, head of electrophysiology
declared neurocardiogenic syncope.
I refused the medication. Dr. Hazan followed up
that I should eat as much salt as I wanted,
which was redundant as my blood is the saltiest of anyone ever.
The later Brugada syndrome call brought me
to straight to denial
of genetic testing, an affirmative NO,
with the suggestion that arrhythmias could drop me dead
one day, but I firmly remain pacemaker-less.
Down the road, Dr. Hill at St. Francis on Long Island
said until I start fainting again,
he will leave the unknown
in my heart alone. And then I understood.
A stranger has come to visit
my heart’s inner rooms long-term,
now and then kicking the furniture around.
My heart has been a series of refusals
and acceptances with the occasional
narcissistic party scene.
And I’m along for the ride, listening to Ryan Adams too loud,
missing the south but driving through the years,
visiting lovers and friends below the Mason-Dixon line.
But first some irrelevancies: My house is now on Rose Mtn
and I pass Slide Mountain Motel
after the residents of the Catskills
have long been tucked into darkness
with a light that claims “Open” and the yellow lamp
at the entrance telling me to come in.
There is a sadness so deep in this scene it circles
all the way back to gladness
for my stupid little life, driving through wilderness,
watching for animals
the poet in me lathers
in the literal as it stands as metaphor
for the strangeness of being.
Then back to it: I labor under capitalism and femalehood
and my heart’s stranger gets up, glowers at the ruck up,
adrenaline aloud, speeding up again as a reminder.
They say the cliché that every beat is a promise
but in the case of my own I believe in
every missed beat,
arrhythmia and blackout when the dissonance
brings me back to the surface again.
Caveat: This is not a catalogue
but a shortlist of greatest hits the stranger within
has sent up from her aorta today.
What do I put on my med alert bracelet now?
Nothing. I pawn it.
Birthday at 47.
Amy King is the recipient of the 2015 Winner of the Women’s National Book Association (WNBA) Award. Her latest collection, The Missing Museum, is a winner of the 2015 Tarpaulin Sky Book Prize. She co-edited with Heidi Lynn Staples the anthology Big Energy Poets of the Anthropocene: When Ecopoets Think Climate Change. She also co-edits the anthology series, Bettering American Poetry, and is a professor of creative writing at SUNY Nassau Community College.