My Racing Heart

for Andrew and Lizzie


The quick and dead share this in common –
their ends define astride the instant
when the one becomes the other.

Put it another way, it’s the second when
the body doesn’t know it’s had its day,
it’s bliss has rocketed you to space,

but awesome, awful emptiness stretches velvet
smooth oh so far into the distance,
and light has gone, and nothing wins.

These are only words that like to play with
danger, indulging cliff edge stunts that fall
for jokes about your  finite store of heartbeats,

but feel that flutter of an atrial excitement
and take again the middle path that leads to hills
where sunlight beckons and breath takes in

the air with ease. And here I have a
momentary release that unexpected weakness
brings. The puzzle is no laughing matter.

I lie upon the waiting earth and pray
for strength to walk again, to rise
to this or any other time to come.

Larks shatter the air with derision
and their distant, soaring panic. Slowly, suddenly,
the instant ends and paths lead once

again above the Roman forts, the valley
roads, the racing hares, the stone-
built farms and fields, the water

lying sleek in pools with smug
smart trout. It’s only just in view
this glimpse of things more special

than they are, but as the weeks
go on, and resentment at the treason
my own self has perpetrated

on its host subsides to an accepted
daily pill, the things that really
count shine more vivid in the grass.