I Pledge Allegiance to the Heart

Andrew Hemmert

I pledge allegiance to the heart—

not the empty aluminum heart

shaped like an ass and created

for holding chocolate, but the messy heart

full of blood and pathogens and incapable

of lasting long away from the body.

I pledge allegiance to the real heart

which fills with plaque and like a shark

cannot keep from moving and stay

alive. I pledge allegiance to the heart

of a great white shark, which accelerates

as the shark accelerates, rising like heat

from the depths and bursting against

the sea’s surface with a mouthful of seal.

I pledge allegiance to the heart

of the seal which feeds and keeps

beating the heart of the shark. The heart

of a shark is small for its body,

meaning the heart is like an ant

carrying the wings of a monarch

butterfly. The heart is many chambered

like a pipe organ. Many chambered,

also meaning spacious, also meaning

there is enough room for you, here,

even when it is cold out and the country

pumps with blood, here. I need

reminding some days how spacious

and how fragile is the heart, a mine

floating on the ocean and primed

to explode at the slightest touch,

a mine deep in the mountain

where men inhale coal dust as if breathing

the shadow itself, a mine whose collapse

could be triggered by the slightest shift

of the earth. People fall into mineshafts

all the time, and some of them even survive,

and the heart I think is how daylight looks

when you've been so long underground,

when you've been allegiant to anger, to doubt,

without even knowing it maybe, like I am

sometimes screaming in traffic or fast

in the teeth of what could have been

but wasn't. In Texas as a child I gave

the pledge daily, placed my hand

over my heart as if reaching for it,

as if making sure it was still there,

and this I think is what is necessary

for survival, pledging allegiance to the heart

so that we do not forget it in its solitude,

in its cathedral of tissue, in its circuitry

of blood which is, despite the myth,

not once, not for a moment, blue.

about the author