Sarah Kain Gutowski: Chapter VII: She Grows
a Second Heart
That night she woke to find another oddity:
during sleep her heart had split or twinned itself,
and where one muscle pumped before, now beat two.
Her blood coursed through her veins twice as fast as before,
and over those paths her skin buzzed and stammered, like wire
strung tautly between two poles and charged with load.
As if she’d run for miles across rolling hills,
as if inside her chest two fists beat time all day,
beneath the bone she sped at death in the most alive way.
The day crawled while her two hearts raced. Above the fire
she set a series of clocks to ticking. She watched the flames,
sometimes leaning close enough to feel the heat
singe her stitches a deeper shade, their fibers scorching
until they curled, like dark froth spilling from her mouth.
But when her hearts began to flicker more, and faster
than she could stand, she turned her eyes to the clocks’ marked faces
and drew comfort from the second hands’ neurotic twitch.
Every minute witnessed meant another minute lived.
Beneath her breastbone her strange second heart pulsed harder.
She sensed the muscle, like her tongue, would leap and fly
away from her body if her body let it go.
She took the silver-handled knife and incised a cross
above the cavity where her hearts ballooned together,
jostling for room and dominance. The flaps of skin,
pale as egg shell, trembled slightly. A head appeared.
A bird with obsidian eyes emerged wet with her blood,
shook to shed its burden, and leapt toward the rafters above.
She watched the bird and felt air seep into the space
it left behind, her single heart unrivaled but lonely
in its great room. The wound bled slowly, healing fast
to a pale silver scar, flaps falling back to close
neatly over the bone, which laid itself again
like lines of track or scaffolding across her chest.
The bird flew to the window’s sill, and ticked its head
to look back at the woman. A slight breeze, cool and calm,
caressed its dark wings, and it leapt for the steady branch of that arm
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