by Lesley Wheeler

Since my heart stopped I can feel the clock ticking,
the creek dreaming, the light sinking. Blood

pools at my ankles—socks full of mud. How
can I keep walking, talking, skinning a bagel,

sniffing the yeast? I dangle my head and arms
over the bed-cliff to warm them. My face is torn,

my hair looks dead. The small hot birds sound closer
than ever. I stop breathing, experimentally.

Just a habit, painless to break. The world
pulled in, the world pushed out, molecules

unchanged. Since my heart stopped, rot begins.
To move is to haul meat. A sour scent, blush

of green along the fat. Will I wither
snug along my bones or loosen, peel

away? Since my heart stopped, questions fester
like microscopic eggs. I never knew

that the fire in me could cool and still a walking,
talking engine would conduct the business

of my will. That I was less a working
body than a mind’s routine, a rhythm.

LESLEY WHEELER’s forthcoming books are the poetry collection The State She’s In, the novel Unbecoming, and the essay collection Poetry’s Possible Worlds; previous poetry books are Radioland and the chapbook Propagation. Her work appears in Ecotone, Beloit Poetry Journal, Crab Orchard Review, and other magazines. Poetry Editor of Shenandoah, she lives in Virginia.