The Hearts

By Robert Pinsky b. 1940 Robert Pinsky
The legendary muscle that wants and grieves,   
The organ of attachment, the pump of thrills   
And troubles, clinging in stubborn colonies

Like pulpy shore-life battened on a jetty.
Slashed by the little deaths of sleep and pleasure,   
They swell in the nurturing spasms of the waves,

Sucking to cling; and even in death itself—
Baked, frozen—they shrink to grip the granite harder.   
“Rid yourself of attachments and aversions”—

But in her father’s orchard, already, he says
He’d like to be her bird, and she says: Sweet, yes,   
Yet I should kill thee with much cherishing,

Showing that she knows already—as Art Pepper,   
That first time he takes heroin, already knows   
That he will go to prison, and that he’ll suffer

And knows he needs to have it, or die; and the one   
Who makes the General lose the world for love   
Lets him say, Would I had never seen her, but Oh!

Says Enobarbus, Then you would have missed   
A wonderful piece of work, which left unseen   
Would bring less glory to your travels. Among

The creatures in the rock-torn surf, a wave   
Of agitation, a gasp. A scholar quips,   
Shakespeare was almost certainly homosexual,

Bisexual, or heterosexual, the sonnets
Provide no evidence on the matter. He writes   
Romeo an extravagant speech on tears,

In the Italian manner, his teardrops cover
His chamber window, says the boy, he calls them crystals,   
Inanely, and sings them to Juliet with his heart:

The almost certainly invented heart
Which Buddha denounces, in its endless changes   
Forever jumping and moving, like an ape.

Over the poor beast’s head the crystal fountain   
Crashes illusions, the cold salt spume of pain   
And meaningless distinction, as Buddha says,

But here in the crystal shower mouths are open   
To sing, it is Lee Andrews and The Hearts   
In 1957, singing I sit in my room

Looking out at the rain, My tear drops are
Like crystals, they cover my windowpane, the turns   
Of these illusions we make become their glory:

To Buddha every distinct thing is illusion   
And becoming is destruction, but still we sing
In the shower. I do. In the beginning God drenched

The Emptiness with images: the potter   
Crosslegged at his wheel in Benares market   
Making mud cups, another cup each second

Tapering up between his fingers, one more   
To sell the tea-seller at a penny a dozen,
And tea a penny a cup. The customers smash

The empties, and waves of traffic grind the shards   
To mud for new cups, in turn; and I keep one here   
Next to me: holding it awhile from out of the cloud

Of dust that rises from the shattered pieces,   
The risen dust alive with fire, then settled
And soaked and whirling again on the wheel that turns

And looks on the world as on another cloud,
On everything the heart can grasp and throw away   
As a passing cloud, with even Enlightenment

Itself another image, another cloud
To break and churn a salt foam over the heart   
Like an anemone that sucks at clouds and makes

Itself with clouds and sings in clouds and covers   
Its windowpane with clouds that blur and melt,   
Until one clings and holds—as once in the Temple

In the time before the Temple was destroyed   
A young priest saw the seraphim of the Lord:
Each had six wings, with two they covered their faces,

With two they covered their legs and feet, with two   
They darted and hovered like dragonflies or perched   
Like griffins in the shadows near the ceiling—

These are the visions, too barbarous for heaven   
And too preposterous for belief on earth,   
God sends to taunt his prophet with the truth

No one can see, that leads to who knows where.   
A seraph took a live coal from the altar   
And seared the prophet’s lips, and so he spoke.

As the record ends, a coda in retard:
The Hearts in a shifting velvety ah, and ah
Prolonged again, and again as Lee Andrews

Reaches ah high for I have to gain Faith, Hope
And Charity, God only knows the girl   
Who will love me—Oh! if we only could

Start over again! Then The Hearts chant the chords   
Again a final time, ah and the record turns   
Through all the music, and on into silence again.

Robert Pinsky, “The Hearts” from The Want Bone. Copyright © 1990 by Robert Pinsky. Used by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

Source: The Figured Wheel: New and Collected Poems 1966-1996 (HarperCollins, 1996)

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Poet Robert Pinsky b. 1940

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Subjects Music, Religion, Love, Relationships, Arts & Sciences, Romantic Love, Desire, Infatuation & Crushes, Unrequited Love, Heartache & Loss

Poetic Terms Blank Verse