Margaret Atwood, Selected Poems II: Poems Selected & New 1976-1986 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1987): 118-19
1Wired up at the ankles and one wrist,
2a wet probe rolling over my skin,
3I see my heart on a screen
4like a rubber bulb or a soft fig, but larger,
5enclosing a tentative double flutter,
6the rhythm of someone out of breath
7but trying to speak anyway; two values opening
8and shutting like damp wings
9unfurling from a gray pupa.
10This is the heart as television,
11a softcore addiction
12of the afternoon. The heart
13as entertainment, out of date
14in black and white.
15The technicians watch the screen,
16looking for something: a block, a leak,
17a melodrama, a future
18sudden death, clenching
19of this fist which goes on
20shaking itself at fate.
21They say: It may be genetic.
22(There you have it, from science,
23what God has been whispering all along
24through stones, madmen and birds' entrails:
25hardness of the heart can kill you.)
26They change the picture:
27now my heart is cross-sectioned
28like a slice of textbook geology.
29They freeze-frame it, take its measure.
30A deep breath, they say.
31The heart gasps and plods faster.
32It enlarges, grows translucent,
33a glowing stellar
34cloud at the far end
35of a starscope. A pear
36made of smoke and about to rot.
37For once the blood and muscle
38heart and the heart of pure
39light are beating in unison,
41Dressing, I am diaphanous,
42a mist wrapping a flare.
43I carry my precarious
44heart, radiant and already
45fading, out with me
46along the tiled corridors
47into the rest of the world,
48which thinks it is opaque and hard.
49I am being very careful.
50O heart, now that I know your nature,
51who can I tell?
Publication Start Year
Interlunar (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1984).
RPO poem Editors
"Heart Test with an Echo Chamber" © Margaret Atwood. Printed gratis, and specifically for <i>Representative Poetry Online</i>, with permission of the author. As published in <i>Selected Poems</i> (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1976). Any other use, including reproduction for any purposes, educational or otherwise, will require explicit written permission from Margaret Atwood.