The dummies, all named Annie, all without hearts,
arrive in blue valises, their faces scuffed like soles
of shoes. Powerful coil springs
in their chests resist like bone when the clear
plastic lungs inflate. A box like a small
traffic signal lights up to show if the help
we give is: (red) breaking a rib; (green) helping
her breathe; (yellow) reviving the pulse. The heart
can stop for six minutes before small
deaths in the brain carry off the soul
as we know it: speech, movement, a clear
memory we can dip into like a spring-
fed well. We kneel like runners ready to spring
at the gun. But before the heroics, before we help,
we make sure Annie hasn’t fainted or isn’t clearing
her mind with simple sleep the way a hart
might clear a stone wall, bounding as the soul
would if it could travel apart from its small
carrying case, the body. “Annie! Annie!” our small
voices cry from all corners, tightening the springs
in our thighs. We slap her, lightly, solely
because it’s required. We say, “Somebody go for help,”
to the blank walls, the vinyl face, the heartless
floor. I picture a doctor screaming, “CLEAR!”
then the paddles, the needle jumping clear
off the scale. We place our palms in the small
space above the sternal notch, the heart’s
door latch, bounce fifteen times on Annie’s bedsprings,
then, mouth-to-mouth, two breaths, a large helping
of air while we pinch the nostrils shut so the soul
won’t escape. Few of us believe in the soul.
It’s a word we never use, though its meaning is clear
tonight: the uncomposed face of the helpless;
the person inside us who emerges in the small
hours of a crisis; the handsprings
we turn to find love in the world; the heart
outside our hearts. We’re clearing Annie’s airway
balanced on small knees, using elbows for springs,
hearing our souls cry Call 911. Help me. Please.
The Healing Time
Finally on my way to yes
I bump into all the places
where I said no
to my life
all the untended wounds
the red and purple scars
those hieroglyphs of pain
carved into my skin, my bones,
those coded messages
that send me down
the wrong street
again and again
where I find them
the old wounds
the old misdirections
and I lift them
one by one
close to my heart
and I sayholy
If we are all one,
then in my hand
is the mortal enemy,
the one that felled the forest,
struck the fire,
the doctors of torture
living at the edge of sanity
that, like broken glass,
does not call itself sharp.
In sickness are the stories of a broken world.
It is the wedged cut in a tree,
the strike between match and wood.
It is the way children of burned deer
walk out of the fire.
I am the child of humans,
I have witnessed their destruction inside myself,
and crawled along the ground
among fallen trees
and long grasses. Down there,
I saw disease.
It closed doors, turned on light.
It owned water and land.
It believed in its country
and followed orders.
It went to work.
It tried to take my tongue.
But these words,
these words are proof
there is healing.