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Luci Shaw

Echocardiogram / Fugitive


I am laid on a table, half-naked and uneasy,
a supplicant for truth. Tethered in place with
electrodes, flipped on my side, my left breast
smeared with cool gel, my torso penetrated by
a seeing eye at the end of an intelligent probe.
On a flat screen the habits of my essential organ
gleam; I meet my interior in a heart-to-heart
—my heart watching itself, its echoes, its peaks and
plains, this revelation in dark and light,
my lifelong intimate, I its co-dependent.
The screen pulses with inscrutable signals,
valves undulating like petals, caught in the winds
of blood. Fingers on a keyboard induce
sudden colors to fly across the screen, like
tropical birds. Crimson, indigo.
Without warning the machine growls in rhythm,
filling my ear with harsh gulps. This is what it always
sounds like, you realize, when you listen
deep enough. You have to know how to hear.
A heart wants to be heard, to tell its truth.
I have been uneven all my life. Is there a drug
for that? What of my other heart, prone to
fibrillations of impatience or inconstancy? What kind of
surgery do I pray for? In what operating theater?
What cardiologist God, wearing scrubs?


You were a nimble word, agile enough
to leap off the page and separate yourself
from the pedestrian prose.
You, embedding yourself in my brain,
demanding to be pondered. Nothing
terribly arcane, but with possibilities.
I think you began with O, a letter
I particularly like, suggesting
robustness and eternity.
So, O. Oh, what word were you, you who
seduced me with your ripeness, you,
a plum ready for the plucking?
I should have made a note.
Verb? Noun? No. But so silky and muscular.
Obelisk? Obsidian? Odalisque?
You are driving me crazy.
Or were you a Q?
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