Three Days of a Slowed Heart in Words



Ully Hirsch/Robert F. Nettleton Poetry Prize Co-Winner

Thus I Spoke, Thus I Chose

I almost had it all. I do not mean you, I mean me. I had almost reached my potential, had almost learned to open my eyes in the mornings without a hint of regret. I almost learned to arrive at expected times and to leave before dusk. I ate heads of lettuce and dyed my skin red with handfuls of carrots. I had to teach myself once more to breath air instead of thick white fumes rising from piles of tin foil. Cleaned the walls of my shrunken insides with glasses of milk and teaspoons of honey. Learned to keep this all down, to allow the tiny red lines on the backs of my hands to heal. I tried wearing ribbons in my hair, thought it would mask the garishness still left within the hollows of my face. Tried keeping still on trains to remain seated until the stops that led to school, to work, to family. I tried to not jolt free from my seat in this metal car at stops that I knew much better. Stops that led me up and down filthy stairs to filthier rooms where the only clean object was a shiny scale reflecting my eagerness, my naiveté. I tried pleasantness but the lines imbedded within my skin and the depth of my pupils all conferred a much different aura. I am intricacy and enigma and I am going. I am going to continue on this tour of indulgence and venom, of oral copper and demystification. I have drained my body of sweet liquid and white milk; I am airtight and still able to speak.


I need to write, to rid my bones of bitter marrow. I’d like to scrape each particle of browned tissue and release myself of fatigue and displacement. With each letter that forms each word my hands shake less, my mind stops scattering. I can focus on each element of my spiral; analyze each detail of my forever contradicting apathy. I bathe the heart with these excessively emotive sentences. I wash it of ache and pressure, of the hands grasping onto it in their absurdly desperate search in fulfilling themselves. It is strange that the only hands that grasp us are the ones whose skin reeks of self-indulgence and despair at their realization that they are not whole. They need these vestibules to complete their model of self, to feel like they are a part of something other than their own heads. The hands that tighten, the hands that bleed ever drop of your hard earned blood are never hands that wish to caress your flaws, your inconsistencies. They are never the hands of those sweet, poor folk who only want to peak at other’s hearts, to simply be content at hearing them beating. Those who are stirred by such simplicities will always be heard of but never seen, will never come to fruition in front of you. We’ll never be given that opportunity to be held by devotion and honesty and every other adjective that we always write about but never experience, all the words that warm us with catharsis during writing but never beat against our eardrums during speech. These words will never dull nor ever reach a grandiose closure. They will always hang above our heads, emitting their glow, blind us with their glare of impossibility. They will never be spoken, will never rip themselves off this page to enter someone’s mouth so that I can, for a moment, hear how they sound out loud, hear how they sound with meaning

A Lost Minute of Thought

I hope she answers. Sometimes, hearing her voice makes time stand still in the most cliché of ways and I’m left wondering what it is. She’s filled with pretty things, smelling like sweet nectar that would be too thick to swallow. It would stand still in your throat slowing the pace of your body the way her intensity slows down your breath. Being in the midst of such openness makes one rework their definition of how a human should be. She of course finds fault in this; she can’t comprehend how to everyone she is too much and how for me she is just right. She weighs her words, drenched in beauty and wine, against those of mine, becoming disappointed to find I am not as pure, as easily eager to word my heart out. She doesn’t yet realize that I am all marrow and ligaments, tied into a pretty knot of thick hair and cold eyes. All marrow and ligaments within which somewhere, possibly, lay some pieces of heart and veins still filled with blood. These things, however, have long been foreign to my body, have long been pushed into the deepest caves of the undersides of my ribs. The hands that once so eagerly pushed this heart into those sweat-filled crevices no longer belong to any living entity; they simply reduced me to this person, if I can be so kind, and left. And I am now wondering in bewilderment at this girl. This sweet, sweet lover that has reminded me to speed up instead of slowing down, to sit in grass and touch beetles, to hear music to listen for her words to me. I could love her, I say to myself. I could try to rework the ways of my heart and slow the iron bars descending in a haste to lock me out from what I want. I try to persevere against my reflexes and reach across miles and miles of waters and land, to say hello, I miss you, are you still mine…am I still present there? …should I still be present there?