Heart Test with an Echo Chamber

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Wired up at the ankles and one wrist,a wet probe rolling over my skin,I see my heart on a screenlike a rubber bulb or a soft fig, but larger,

enclosing a tentative double flutter,the rhythm of someone out of breathbut trying to speak anyway; two values openingand shutting like damp wingsunfurling from a gray pupa.

This is the heart as television,a softcore addictionof the afternoon. The heartas entertainment, out of datein black and white.The technicians watch the screen,looking for something: a block, a leak,a melodrama, a futuresudden death, clenchingof this fist which goes onshaking itself at fate.They say: It may be genetic.

(There you have it, from science,what God has been whispering all alongthrough stones, madmen and birds' entrails:hardness of the heart can kill you.)They change the picture:now my heart is cross-sectionedlike a slice of textbook geology.They freeze-frame it, take its measure.

A deep breath, they say.The heart gasps and plods faster.It enlarges, grows translucent,a glowing stellarcloud at the far endof a starscope. A pearmade of smoke and about to rot.For once the blood and muscleheart and the heart of purelight are beating in unison,visibly.

Dressing, I am diaphanous,a mist wrapping a flare.I carry my precariousheart, radiant and alreadyfading, out with mealong the tiled corridorsinto the rest of the world,which thinks it is opaque and hard.I am being very careful.O heart, now that I know your nature,who can I tell?

© Margaret Atwood