by Eleanor Hooker

our hearts on a heavy chain
fastened to a faithful rib
            – Vasko Popa

Still and light she lies,
all eight years of her,
her lips stained blue,
as though she’s feasted
on summer berries.
And when the pressure
falls inside her lungs,
it builds in the powered
bellows breathing into her.
And when you listen,
you hear only a muffled heart.

You are the crash team
assembled round her bed,
who watch the surgeon cut
into the space,
above her fifth rib,
to remove a clot,
who tells you to place
your gloved hands
round her heart.

You hear his dear God,
and think of the God hung
in your Grandmother’s parlour –
sorrowful and kitsch, gaping,
heart in hand –
sac-red, barbed and glowing.

And with this ultimate
transgression, tiny heart in hand,
its critical defences breached,
you repeat the child’s name,
Faith, Faith –
You do not pray,
you speak homing words
to her bird-spirit,
that hovers, heartsore.


Tamponade – compression of the heart by an accumulation of fluid in the pericardial sac.