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Poetry and Medicine
February 16, 2011

The Heart Broken Open

Author Affiliations

Poetry and Medicine Section Editor: Charlene Breedlove, Associate Editor. Poems may be submitted to jamapoems@jama-archives.org.

JAMA. 2011;305(7):651. doi:10.1001/jama.2010.1999

Doppler echocardiogram, male veteran, age 67, results:

It's not the image of your heart
you’ve had since boyhood,
when you climbed heaven-high
in those golden aspens—
just cold echoes
of your mortal core.
You lie shivering in a fetal curl
while a chirpy technician
your granddaughter's age
slides a cold wand across your chest.
She says, “You’ll hear a whoosh
with every heartbeat.”
You want to tell her about Khe Sanh
and what the heart's really made of.
You want to tell her
that in each rush of blood,
you hear the sound of a wounded fox
in famished winter.
You want to tell her
of all that is to come,
but her eyes—
her eyes
are so painfully blue,
and so young.