The Heart

Jonathan Aaron

I woke to your knocking,
convinced someone was patrolling the corridor,
hammering the doors.
The heat was intense, and I wished it would rain.
Your name came to me,
and I thought about all I’d once known about you
but forgot, and once again I saw
those glossy textbook illustrations
full of bright colours, capital letters, Latin names,
those likenesses that used to take my breath away in school.
And then I began to recall more –
the Greeks thought your purpose was to cool
the quick temper of the blood,
and it took the lucid Harvey boatloads of snakes
and apes and other farfetched creatures
to bring your secret to light.
Now I’m standing at the window,
noting the haze, the faintness of the stars,
but thinking of you, little fist
clenching and unclenching as if determined
to keep at it forever,
snug as a treasure carefully packed for shipment
to a distant museum. And I think of Byron
staring into the flames near the water’s edge,
and of what he wrote afterward to Moore, ‘… all
of Shelley was consumed but for the heart.’
Wherever you are –
in the open chest of the accusatory martyr
who leaned toward me one day in an Italian church,
or on the sleeves of the young, the madly
hopeful and in love – you do what you must,
solitary stoker down there in the body’s hold,
bending to your labour
inspired, certain of yourself. Pure and blind.