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Sunday, February 6, 2011


I woke up last Thursday morning knowing I had to visit my mother in the hospital and then at nine o'clock I got the call from the school nurse. The day turns from morning to blur. With all the energy of life flooding my veins, I have to cover the care for my mother and be a mother to my son. His heart. The struggle of my childhood, the challenge of my adulthood, the source of beating life. It is all in our hearts, in the steady beat of our existence. It is what links us through generations. A grandmother, a mother, and a son.

Irregular Heart Beats

Bump, bump, bump, skip a beat.

A beaten ring murmurs from the grungy house phone.
A call from the school nurse--your son, please don’t worry,
has an irregular heart beat--I detected it at a routine exam,

here in the high school health suite. One, two, three,
irregular arrhythmia. I sent him back to class.
You should call his physician immediately.

Bump, bump, bump, skip a beat.

The Bell phone, with the umbilical cord attached to the wall,
shook in my hand; we never answer this line. I retreat.
My son inherited the broken heart of my father--I repeat in my mind.

Hopscotch, pig tails, running free, playing babies, ambulances
searing emotion into my spinal cord; I look up from pretending--
“Your father is going to the hospital, again.” My mother said.

The tightness in my chest demands my return to my full-
grown body--bump, bump, bump, bump. My heart is fine.
I live in the shadow of a throbbing silhouette of sorrow.

Through the phone receiver, a voice continues to whisper,
words like heart beats and skipping, irregularities and doctors,
all past history alarming my chambers, stifling my faith in mothering.

Bump, bump, bump, skip a beat.

I hang up the phone gently. Trembling still, the steady
beat reminds me, burning tears choke me,
my heart a Cartesian diver measuring the pressure.

Electrical impulses in his heart that coordinate his heart beats
don’t function properly, the pediatric cardiologist explains to me.
An EKG and an echocardiogram and a halter monitor, and we will plan.

Bump, bump, bump, skip a beat.

Sticky leads and wires. Fluttering red lines scratched on paper.
No irregularities. A cool dark room, warm gel, birds singing, Doppler,
ultrasound screen, electrodes, my son is lying shirtless, and I witness his heart beating.

The chambers are filling, the chambers are emptying; I am looking inside
the body of my son, looking inside his heart , one heart beating, and all I see
is an ultrasound of my baby inside of me, moving and beating in steady rhythm.

My son is living his life, sometimes with an indiscretion. I touch his head
gently, and I watch the direction of his blood, blue and red,
flood and squeeze and dance like a fetus, an entire life pumping continuously.

I listen to the lob-dub the muscle is making, the quiet chirp of the
electronic bird behind me, bump, bump, bump. I take a moment to breathe.
I am filled with meaning, with mothering, with what a heart provides--love.

Bump, bump, bump.

I take my eyes from the screen and look at my son, his body taller than mine,
chest hair, strong arms, blue eyes, he is my history and with two hearts,
I hear bump, bump, bump, bump. A perfect steady beat inside of him and me.

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