The Heart Asked Me to Please Take It Home

In a plastic container wrapped in ice packs,
a human heart sat next to me on the plane.
I queried the flight attendant about the heart
in the plastic container by me, and she joked
“if I minded sitting next to the lonely heart,”
but that a medic-type would board at landing
and rush off with the iced heart to a new life.
I said we are in an unknown country now,
an age of ontological total despair with life
itself in triage, hospice or the last morgue.
She asked if I wanted a free very hard drink.
I said sure a double, and then told her I like
my reality straight up, and has she faced
that fascists are in charge of the country,
and since fascists love the decrepit conceit
that only white killers deserve to survive,
and since Nero and the corporate fascists
want us all to die in flames and hurricanes,
climate change is a blessing, and simpler
than orchestrating a worldwide extinction.
Then after it was just me and the cold heart.
Three hours into the flight, over the Rockies
there was serious turbulence, the container
jiggled, so I wrapped my free arm around it,
like we were on a first date. The flying heart
was just iced, not dead, so it maybe feels?
I felt good about this gesture of humanity.
Paperwork was taped to the container.
The heart was young and still vital, it said.
Just about three hours out of its flesh body.
My own heart was beating. I wondered
about the suicide, as I have considered it.
In another age suicide might be just grief:
a marriage, career failure, acute depression.
I wrapped both my arms around the cooler.
A theatrical hug of sympathy, and the heart,
the heart, asked me to please take it home.


Photo by Debby Ledet on Unsplash

Tom Paine

Tom Paine’s poetry is upcoming or published in more than seventy international journals, including: The Nation, The Moth (Ireland), The Rialto (UK), New Contrast (South Africa), Poetry Salzburg (Austria), Volt, Vallum (Canada), Paris Lit Up (France), Glasgow Review of Books (Scotland), Blackbox Manifold (Cambridge), Fence, The Common, Chattahoochee Review, Epiphany, Green Mountain Review, Galway Review (Ireland), Forklift Ohio, Tinderbox, Hunger Mountain, Hobart, Hotel Amerika, Hobart, Tampa Review and elsewhere. Stories have been published in The New Yorker, Harper’s, Zoetrope, Boston Review, The New England Review, The O. Henry Awards and twice in the Pushcart Prize. His first collection, Scar Vegas (Harcourt), was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and a Pen/Hemingway finalist. A graduate of Princeton and the Columbia MFA program, he is a professor in the MFA program at the University of New Hampshire.