Something beyond its meaning
There are the paper ones that Mary cut out and painted with swirls of fuchsia, some with chevrons and adornments that took scissors and time, tiny notes written in the black marks of our language: I love you and You are in me, all of them mixed in with shiny crimson and yellow heartlets gleaming within a scented mélange of potpourri she chose and placed in a round lidded canister of ochre red and black.
There are the ones Kim drew on the outside of envelopes and in the margins of her letters, with blue wings made azurely from the cheap skinny pens she adored, hearts with curved lines and wigglemarks so that you knew they were flying with speed and purpose; the one she painted in patinated metal that became the cover of my book, its tin ribs cut precisely from the glossless cans she was always on the lookout for, slivered aluminum angels appearing to be wept out by the corrugated musculature of its tumultuous fisting.
There are the ones that Cindy gave me in a small plastic baggie, the burnished oaken heart lined with the subtle worries of the hand-wrung world, a white thread of silken hope ambled through its enveloped eyehook where the two halves curvingly meet; the one made of bronze slightly curled like a fossilized leaf, decorated with five clovers and the veiny rises of circulatory canals segmented like bacterium bound to the body of believing; the two earring hearts of faux cloisonné, comets and stars against a skyberry atmosphere flashing above elements of earthy abalone and inlay.
There is the one that frames my daughter Siobhan, gilded and finely scrolled, her hair draped over one shoulder in highlights and heavenscent, her tiny face smiling from my shelf all the way to the sixth grade when she lived with her Aunt Chen because her parents were too lost to provide the basic things she needed: love love love.
There is the one I found in my son Camlen’s wallet several years ago, a small card he’d kept since the third grade from Valerie, a duck with puppy eyes staring out demurely saying: Happy Valentine’s, her name hurriedly written as if to linger might mean something beyond its class of meaning, yet the beauty of it in my hand as if it were a shy bridge to the wonder and interior of my son’s own heart.
There are all the other ones, the many hearts of our lives; the ones we sold into slavery; the ones that broke open like iron piñatas spilling out all that regretful candy to wash over unwatered lawns and pillowcases; the ones we kept and never gave back to their rightful owners; the ones we gave away in haste and hurry, the others we gave away never to see again; the hearts we shared and traded to see what it was to really love and what it was to pretend; the ones that were ours only for a short time, that time and distance reclaimed as theirs; the hearts we never had or grew into; the ones we folded, spindled, and mutilated because they were too close, because they were our own and we just had to know how much they could take.
Tell me, reader, tell me: What hearts do you still carry and what hearts have you left behind?
July 30, 2005