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Poetry and Medicine
September 2, 2009

Heart-Shaped Stones

JAMA. 2009;302(9):928. doi:10.1001/jama.2009.1224

I make a game of looking for them
among the shattered rocks
of this familiar desert
rain-shadowed by the Sierra Nevada.
This is partly a way of focusing
so I will notice other, rarer things:
arrowheads, pottery shards,
coiled silent rattlesnakes—
I have found each of these.
Heart-shaped stones
are so common here
I only pick up remarkable examples—
a perfect flint-hard black
valentine veined with quartz,
another version in rose quartz itself,
barely softer than diamond—
stones sculpted by cataclysm,
wide open to the sky, west wind-washed,
frozen, thawed and blasted.
The geography of our lives
can be just as cataclysmic—
Christ, Buddha, whoever:
forgive us when you find within our chests
stones shaped like hearts.

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