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The Friday Poem: ‘The heart heals itself between beats’ by Elizabeth Smither

New verse by New Plymouth poet Elizabeth Smither

 

The heart heals itself between beats

 

When the Middlesex Hospital was coming down
I walked through empty corridors to the chapel
and stood behind a rood screen, admiring
self-sacrificing matrons and eminent surgeons.

The heart heals itself between beats.
The heart heals itself between beats.

Once there were amputee men in wheelchairs
outside on the pavement, smoking and flirting
‘How are you, sweetheart?’ Blankets over their stumps
and in their eyes no lack of meaning.

The heart heals itself between beats.
The heart heals itself between beats.

The chapel was saved. The rats ran out in legions.
The nurses and doctors kept on packing.
They carried long lengths of piping
and piled boxes in all the corridors.

The heart heals itself between beats.
The heart heals itself between beats.

I read it somewhere in a journal of cardiology.
Sometimes I mention it at dinner parties.
The use of time, the clenching of the heart
that can be no stranger to the beats of a clock

The heart heals itself between beats.

and all that accompanies the emptying and filling
of chambers where silence must be an unknown
but still love sluices and cleans and restarts
as the surgeons did in the old Middlesex.

The heart heals itself between beats.

How it works I cannot tell. Maybe each cell
proposes a soliloquy to itself and speaks
or on the warm wall of a ventricle
embroidered like a sampler over a bed

The heart heals itself between beats.
I heal myself between beats.

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