We see it haunting lockets, cards,
carved into the breasts of trees
or fingered into fresh cement,
this shape of what does not exist:
two upside-down teardrops
fused at the ankles, their cries unheard.
In red cardboard, a vault for chocolates.
Synonym for affection at the end
of an erotic letter, soggy with lavender.
What everyone searches for
and promises, yet cannot recognize—
the engine that stretches in rain
or breaks like hopelessly precious china,
the pieces skittering across
the dull white floor of the ribcage.
Oh, the heart is not symmetrical,
not an arrowhead angled safely down,
but a meaty crimson fist that swells
like a bladder, about to explode.
Like the part of the beast we discard
or a star a trillion miles away,
seen by us only after it goes nova,
casting itself in death across the wastes
in rainbow arcs of fire—something
we'll wish upon, ages after it's gone.
I wrote this poem one Valentine's Day during a moment of supreme irritation and bemusement that the very symbol of love being celebrated in greeting cards and shop windows everywhere looks in fact nothing like the real thing. The real heart—like real love—is far more terrible, and far more spectacular.