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The First Sunday in Extraordinary Time
I am the hole in your heart. I speak, though I am a nothingness, an absence of space. You slosh and pump and hum, you body-machine, around me, but though I am nothing I am still within you, and you feel my nothingness like a something.
You know that your heart is a composite organ. It is yours and it is not yours. Come, run your fingers over the stitchwork. These are the threads that suture muscle to muscle. Look, here. The superior vena cava is your mother’s, raised like an arm to heaven. It throbs sanctimoniously. It is the reason you still feel the weakness in your hamstrings, that urge to genuflect, whenever you’re near a church. Blood rushes through it like wind through an organpipe.
Trace your fingers now over the stitching, to the ascending aorta. It is your father’s. It curls like a tree’s root, arcing itself, bracing in a hug’s knot.
Every part of your heart belongs to someone else. The stitching is expert. It swells with love, fat with it. It is a healthy heart, ripe and apple-red. It beats iambs, the biology of poetry. Sylvia Plath listened to the old brag of her heart: I am I am I am. You are. You are they and they are you.
But I am the hole in your heart. I am a fissure in the fabric of time and space. I winked open when your father telephoned, his voice encased in the metal of mourning. Your Grandad is no longer with us. He had exhaled an empty room to silence, his brain dizzy with dementia. Over days, the part of your heart that is his — was his — gaped and grew. And here I am, the hole in your heart, growing as you weep into a webcam, the funeral party limited to six figures in black, cut by slashes of rain. Watch them unravel graveside, wanting so badly to ribbon into the empty earth after him, that open hole like the hole in your heart and the hole he left in space and time.
I am the hole in your heart. I am the ache in your fingers, the wish to bear his body on your shoulders. I am the hushing of eyes closed by fingers. I am the winding sheet. I am the candle that flickers and judders in the dark. I am the sheer invisible crashing of glass in the night, the sound of things coming down, of times changing beyond time unmendably, of a time out of joint.
Later, see strangers’ faces in newspapers. Old men and women, mostly, grinning. Pint glasses, spectacles on strings, the odd cigarette, the clothes of a bygone era. These are the new war dead, people say. These ordinary people in their ordinary beds, whose ordinary hearts stop in extraordinary times.