Now, it has come to my attention that I haven’t featured an “A Favorite Poem” issue since November– crazy to believe, isn’t it? Considering that I’d been traveling through the majority of December and January, it was normal that I would be too preoccupied to feature a poem, but it surprises me that I didn’t do one last month, as I wasn’t traveling at all.
In any case, I’d like to share a current favorite which interestingly blends medicine and poetry. Taken from physician-poet Rafael Campo, “Cardiology” is an exercise in all things heart-related.
Cardiology (by Rafael Campo)
When we first met, my heart pounded. They said
the shock of it was probably what broke
his heart. In search of peace, we traveled once
to Finland, tasted reindeer heart. It seemed
so heartless, how you wanted it to end.
I noticed on the nurse who took his pulse
a heart tattooed above her collarbone.
The kids played hearts all night to pass the time.
You said that at its heart rejection was
impossible to understand. “We send
our heartfelt sympathy,” was written in
the card your mother sent, in flowing script.
I tried interpreting his EKG,
which looked like knife wounds to the heart. I knew
enough to guess he wouldn’t last much longer.
As if we’d learned our lines by heart, you said,
“I can’t explain.” “Please don’t,” was my reply.
They say the heart is just a muscle. Or
the heart is where the human soul resides.
I saw myself in you; you looked so much
like him. You didn’t have the heart to say
you didn’t want me anymore. I still
can see that plastic statue: Jesus Christ,
his sacred heart aflame, held out in his
own hands. He finally let go. How grief
this great is borne, not felt. Borne in the heart.
Featuring themes of love, spirituality, and medicine, “Cardiology” discusses all the possible definitions that the word “heart” can be. Campos blends all of these themes seamlessly, weaving through them as skillfully as a surgeon would with a patient. What the poem further shows is a transitioning period, from first love (“my love pounded”) to a spiritual quest (“In search of peace, we traveled once/to Finland, tasted reindeer heart”) to a lost love (“You didn’t have the heart to say/you didn’t want me anymore”)– these different episodes of the heart demonstrate the different points in our lives from naivete with first love to growing up and discovering heartbreak and aspects of life that are greater than just ourselves. This poem uses wordplay to discuss change throughout different stages in life, and it makes for a clever, insightful way into redefining just what “heart” really means.
Feel free to give this poem a read! Enjoy your day.
— The Finicky Cynic
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