Pig Heart

By | 1 December 2014

“Our bodies are mysterious because they are alive.”
-Dr. Doris Taylor, Director of the Center for Cardiovascular Repair at the University of Minnesota

A “ghost heart,” she calls it.
Lifeless, suspended in a glass dome
between worlds.

The lab is full of them.
Time pings off the glass like a swarm of insects
at night—yet inside there is no night.
No rhythm. No sleep. No end.


She rinses the dead heart,
injects its rubbery walls with stem cells,
flips the old organs like houses.


In the lab they speak of hearts
as “dead” or “alive.” Meaning what? Is there such
thing as the life
of a heart, a heart-like life? If so, it’s possible that a dead one
wouldn’t even be a heart anymore. It wouldn’t be any kind of thing.
A “ghost” then, as she calls it,
if we can speak of the body and not just the spirit
as ghost.


When she filled the first heart
with living cells, it didn’t start beating
immediately. A tiny pacemaker was attached.
Days passed,
then Harald and Thomas called her from the lab.


A rosy flush
like dawn creeps into the flesh …


A stem cell
can divide indefinitely, and in this it resembles God.
It is necessary and sufficient for skin and bones and eyes and lungs,
teeth and hands and hair
and heart.
But it is none of those things.
It’s might, maybe, perhaps, the incarnate what-if
of every organ, an idea in the flesh.


The lab fills with plums, ripening
organs suspended
in glass bells, the spell of death
slept off like a fairytale.

Half-orphan, half-parent,
they hang like sleeping birds, like orchids,
like smoked meats,
cocoons, candied apples, like oysters yet to be plucked
from their shells.

They swell in imitation of a world
they don’t fully recall, waken to a future
we can barely imagine,

tiny beating hearts,

first fruit in the kingdom
of first fruit.

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