The Mother Talks to Her Son about Her Heart

So what. So what that you grew
inside of someone else—
it doesn’t mean you aren’t in here now,
in here, right here. Oh, my heart—what’s in here
is not all my own anymore, anyway.
There is Teflon, and stitching—other people’s hands
have been in here. By this I mean to tell you
there is room. There is a house in here
I had hoped to fill. I saved clothes forever
waiting for more babies. So, I wanted you.
I always wanted you. A heart has four rooms.
You are one son. There is room.
When I was young and wanting to bring you home,
they found the hole in my heart and patched it.
I grow older and the outside door fails,
and so I get a new one.
In the lumber yard of the heart, the materials
are strange, Teflon, like I said, for the hole
and a valve from a cow to seal the doorway.
Over and over, I shore this place up.
Steady, old girl, I say to my heart,
and I call in its ticks to the doctor.
I love her, like I love you, like I have always
loved you. She calls me back and reads my stats.
I call your sister and tell her the score,
that I am always winning another day. Steady, steady,
ticks the pacemaker. I keep a good house. You know that.
These days, I keep my heart like a summer cottage.
The light is bright and warm. I won’t speak
of anything else. You forget, you forget all the time.
You are supposed to come home. You are supposed to know
these things. You are supposed to know which door
to knock on, that I will open it.


Kerrin McCadden is the author of Landscape with Plywood Silhouettes, winner of the 2015 Vermont Book Award and the 2013 New Issues Poetry Prize. She is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship, a Vermont Studio Center Fellowship, and the Sustainable Arts Foundation Writing Award, as well as support from the Vermont Arts Council and the Vermont Arts Endowment Fund. Her poems have appeared in Best American Poetry, The Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day series, Verse Daily, American Poetry Review, Beloit Poetry Journal and other journals. A graduate of The MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College, she teaches English and Creative Writing at Montpelier High School. She lives in Montpelier, Vermont.