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  #1  
Unread 07-21-2021, 08:33 AM
John Riley John Riley is offline
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Default Cardiology

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This Is My Heart

Take a look at the left ventricle.
It's grown a little stiff
over the years of wine and shocks
from the other doctor's wands
attached to my head asking
are you awake? Did the shock
applied convince me
to stand up and state my purpose
or was I lured by the instant
relief of the demands that made
my heart an enemy?
Answers are hard to come by
my new heart doctor says.
What can you expect me to do
when you have lived so long
convinced of the endless strop of nowhere
that awaited your last breath?
I hate questions, the doctor says,
and here you are with questions
about the possibility of carrying on
when all I see is the inevitable darkness.
I suggest you take that home
and stop pretending you are complicit
in the final gulf of emptiness that will
hurdle over your previous collapses.

***

Cardiology

This is my heart.
Take a look at the left ventricle.
It's grown a little stiff
over the years of wine and flight
and shocks from the other doctor's wands
attached to my head asking
are you awake? Did the shock
he applied convince me
to stand up and state my purpose
or was I lured by the instant
relief of the demands that made
my heart an enemy?
Answers are hard to come by
my new heart doctor says.
What can you expect me to do
when you have lived so long
convinced of the endless strop of nowhere
that awaited your last breath?
I hate questions, the doctor says,
and here you are with questions
about the possibility of carrying on
when all I see is the inevitable darkness.
I suggest you take that home
and stop pretending you are complicit
in the final gulf of emptiness that will
hurdle over your previous collapses.

Last edited by John Riley; 07-24-2021 at 04:41 PM.
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  #2  
Unread 07-21-2021, 01:32 PM
F.F. Teague's Avatar
F.F. Teague F.F. Teague is offline
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Hi John,

This is effective. I like the stark beginning. I think 'flight' is escape; happy to be corrected on that. I suppose you could have a comma at the end of line 6, but not if you don't want one.

The questioning style works well too. There are always a lot of questions in health settings (I find). Maybe a comma at the end of line 14, but I've just twigged there's a pattern with line 6, so maybe not.

I like 'endless strop of nowhere' and the last eight lines hit pretty hard.

Sorry, John; no nits as such, but others might provide.

Best wishes,
Fliss
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  #3  
Unread 07-22-2021, 09:41 AM
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Seree Zohar Seree Zohar is offline
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" when you have lived so long
convinced of the endless strop of nowhere
that awaited your last breath? "

I very much like this section. I like what follows it, for the most. What precedes it seems not to be of the same quality, though, and the preceding lines are also where I found the most line breaks that didn't quite gel for me. I know you recast work frequently so these thoughts are to store away until...
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Unread 07-23-2021, 06:30 PM
John Riley John Riley is offline
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Thank you, Fliss and Seree, I think your notes are helpful. I wrote this after a doctor’s visit and want to keep it as raw as possible but there are obviously places that need work.

Best
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  #5  
Unread 07-23-2021, 06:59 PM
MJ Starling MJ Starling is offline
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Hi John,

I’ve been reading your poem and have a couple of questions? You wrote: “or was I lured by the instant relief/ of the demands that made/my heart an enemy.” What was the thing that made you heart the enemy? Was it the shocks themselves? Or was it the underlying condition that required the shocks? Or does it matter?

Also, you wrote: “and stop pretending you are complicit/in the final gulf of emptiness that will/hurdle over your previous collapses.” Are you suggesting that the “final gulf of emptiness” is a type of criminal conspiracy?

Thanks
MJ
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Unread 07-23-2021, 07:42 PM
John Riley John Riley is offline
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MJ, thanks for the questions. They are revealing, perhaps without you knowing it, that the poem may come from too deep inside of me. I don't often write out of direct experience this way but I wanted to capture the semi-shocked state my visit to the cardiologist had put me in. The "other doctor's wands" were the electrodes they attach when doing ECT--electroconvulsive therapy. I've had to be shocked out of depression a few times. The question is did it give me "purpose" or simply lure me into behaviors that weren't good for me or my heart. Did I benefit from the therapy or did it just give me more time to waste? The second quote you mention is--I admit this is something I may too often mention--refers to death--the "final gulf of emptiness." I don't usually go on about my poems but this one was written after being told I have congestive heart failure. The thought I had, that prompted the poem, is that it's another illusion to think death needs my complicity. I have never been soothed by stories of the magical things that will happen after I die. I know the light goes off and nothing I've tried in my life has ever changed that knowing. (I've noticed few depressives are lured by the after-death myths.) I smiled when I read you asking if it is a criminal conspiracy. I think you may be more right than you know.

I hope this overly long paragraph clears things up. Your comment has helped me see places that need smoothing. I may should not have posted it so soon. I usually let something sit around much longer. But it was the moment and hopefully, there is some of the moment in there as well.

Best
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  #7  
Unread 07-24-2021, 01:23 PM
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Sarah-Jane Crowson Sarah-Jane Crowson is offline
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Hi,

This reads powerfully to me but also could be tidied up, I think, maybe. The images are amazing - the doctors with their wands and questionings, and the ‘wine and flight’. The killer lines are 15-18 I think.

I think for me, too, it reads like a reflection, and yet it cries out to be more immediate - more a dialogue between reader and narrator, with perhaps a more insistent narrative voice to start with that can then drop down a bit, become more reflective as the poem moves towards a sombre end?

Sarah-Jane
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Unread 07-24-2021, 02:32 PM
John Riley John Riley is offline
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Thanks, Sarah-Jane. You are right. I think the lesson on this one is to not post too soon regardless of how important something seems to me. I was just back from Duke and was in awe of the profundity of my experience. (That's last bit is sarcasm.) I should have let it sit in a file instead of on the Sphere.
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  #9  
Unread 07-24-2021, 02:38 PM
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F.F. Teague F.F. Teague is offline
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I like the immediacy of it, John. I empathise with having a hospital experience and just wanting to write it out once home. I think poetry can gain strength through not being thought about too much. But I could well be alone on this, at least on the 'sphere. F.
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Unread 07-24-2021, 04:30 PM
Cally Conan-Davies Cally Conan-Davies is offline
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John, I think this is the right place for your heart.

One weird thing that I can't shake: each time I read this poem, it feels to me that the first line is the title, and the second line, the first line:


This is My Heart


Take a look at the left ventricle . . .


If I saw a poem titled 'This is My Heart' in a contents page, I'd go straight for it!

If you're going to play with this poem, go lightly! It would only need micro-changes . . . it's already a gut-punch. I love the voice of the doctor, the doctor speaking...

Cally
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