Call me a Hindu god; my heart feels less now …”

BROAD STREET presents a new poem by Kelsey Ann Kerr in keeping with our seasonal “Small Things, Partial Cures” theme. You can print out the broadside by downloading it at home, or scroll down to read in larger format.

After having heart surgery, I ask my new love

to unzip my sternum’s wound
and spill it all out, hold
my lungs in stitched hands,
test their beat beat with spirometers
as he meters my heartbeat, holes
covered by bovine pericardium. Call me
a Hindu god; my heart feels less
now, has been meditating
for twenty days, eyes down,
refusing to see any other beings
but their shadows as mother, father
take stitches out of one another.
dexterous hands slipping
surgical scissors under
sutures, snipping, relieving
each other of the tension
from being strung up. I am
strung out, still in post-surgery
depression, chest compressed
from the lack of genetic
arms to wrap me shut.
As my love takes all of me
I resent it all:
my father not standing
by my side, running
the heart-lung machine
to breathe for me as I am open
on the table, exposed
to people I barely know.
After the flaps are shut,
any levity leaps
with a shudder.


Kelsey Ann Kerr’s previous work can be found in Stirring: A Literary Collection, New Delta Review, Mezzo Cammin, The Sewanee Review, and the Atlanta Review, among others. She has received scholarships from the Sewanee Writers’ Conference and the Big River Writers’ Conference, and her poetry has been nominated for Best of the Net 2017 and 2018.

True stories, honestly.