The Teachers Poem

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  • Topic: Heart, Burnside Bridge, Stainless steel
  • Pages : 1 (347 words )
  • Download(s) : 120
  • Published : February 23, 2013
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The Teacher|   |
I was twenty-six the first time I helda human heart in my hand.It was sixty-four and heavier than I expected,its chambers slack;and I was stupidly surprisedat how cold it was.It was the middle of the third weekbefore I could look at her face,before I could spend more than an hourlearning the secrets of cirrhosis,the dark truth of diabetes, the black lungsof the Marlboro woman, the exquisitepainful shape of kidney stones,without eating an entire box of Altoidsto smother the smell of formaldehyde.After seeing her face, I could not helpbut wonder if she had a favorite color;if she hated beets,or loved country music before her hearingfaded, or learned to readbefore cataracts placed her in perpetual twilight.I wondered if her mother had once been happywhen she'd come home from schoolor if she'd ever had a valentine from a secret admirer.In the weeks that followed, I woulddrive the highways, scanning billboards.I would see her face, her eyessquinting away the cigarette smoke,or she would turn up at the bus stoppushing a grocery cart of emptybeer cans and soda bottles. I wonderedif that was how she'd paid for all those smokesor if the scars of repeated infections in her wombspoke to a more universal currency.Did she die, I wondered, in a cardboard boxunder the Burnside Bridge, nursing a bottleof strawberry wine, telling herselfshe felt a little warmer now,or in the Good Faith Shelter,her few belongings safe under the sheetheld to her faltering heart?Or in the emergency room, lyingon a wheeled gurney, the pitilesslights above, the gauzy curtains around?Did she ever wonder what it all was for?I wish I could have told her in those dayswhat I've now come to know: thatit was for this--the baringof her body on the stainless steel table--that I might come to know its secretsand, knowing them, might listento the machine-shop hum of aortic stenosisin an old woman's chest, smile a little to myselfand, in gratitude to her who taught me.| |