The Heart Has Four Chambers

The meditation leader asks us to see
what’s in our hearts right now, and I question
when that muscled fist in my chest
became a place, four chambers like rooms
in the Morgan Library—lapis columns
and horse-hair stuffed walls dulling
midtown Manhattan’s traffic cacophony.
Or the Catacombs of Paris, subterranean
hallways lined with precision-stacked
femurs, hollow skulls of the innocent
dead. Which brings me to the tunnel
my wife’s brothers dug in a rented backyard,
big enough for five kids to crawl in and
eat butter sandwiches while their parents
filled the kitchen with cigarette smoke
and broken glass. We’re lucky the roof
didn’t collapse, she laughs. Maybe
it did, I think, trapping that rag doll girl
in her hand-me-down gingham frayed
at the hem. Meaning, part of us always
stays back, while the rest marches on.
Or maybe I’m the kid with mud-packed
lungs sleeping under the concrete patio
the next tenants laid. Maybe that’s why
we recognized each other at first glance
that summer the reservoir held no water,
and those two girls jumped off
the dock’s dark edge, and the night sky
proffered a handful of tinfoil stars.

The Conception Myth

First of all, there’s no turkey baster,
just this needleless syringe and a plastic
vial with a salmon-colored frozen chip
at the bottom, no bigger than the tip
of my pinky finger. The label promises
twenty-four-thousand swimmers will
emerge when the ice defrosts. We need
only one. And it seems easy, like that
carnival game where you shoot water
into the open clown mouth and a balloon
blooms out of its head. Until we watch
the movie where sperm spin like drunken
mole rats, bumping into fallopian walls
while the egg sits on her barstool sipping
her last-call vodka, checking her watch.
Post-insemination the bowl of my pelvis
warms like a room full of bodies and I
wonder if one, which one will wander
down that hallway, hear her whispering
behind the closed door, and knock.

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