We wear harnesses like crossing guards.
In a pouch over the heart,
over stent and bypass, a black
box with leads pressed onto metal
nipples. We pedal and tread and row
while our signals are picked up
by antennas on the ceiling, X’s
like the eyes cartoonists give the dead.
Angels of telemetry with vials of nitro
watch over us. We beam to their monitors
now a barn dance, now a moonwalk.
They cuff us and pump and we keep on
so tomorrow will live off today. Nurse,
we won’t forget the animated
video of our cholesterol highway
where LDL, black-hatted scowling
donut holes on wheels, blocked traffic.
But with muscles like gutta-percha,
can we leave time’s gurney in the dust?
By now only the dead know more about
gravity than we do. In reply, a tape
of Little Richard or Jerry Lee comes on
and we’re singing, aloud or not, all
pale infarcted pedalers, rowers, treadmillers,
and our hearts are rising in the east.
Poem copyright ©2009 by Thomas Reiter, whose most recent book of poems is Catchment, Louisiana State University Press, 2009. Poem reprinted from The Hudson Review, Vol. LXII, no. 2, 2009, by permission of Thomas Reiter and the publisher.