, July 21, 2024

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Image by Daniel Alvarez from Pixabay

Intro by Ted Kooser

I remem­ber being scared to death when, at about thir­ty years of age, I saw an x‑ray of my skull. See­ing one’s self as a skele­ton, or receiv­ing any kind of med­ical report, even when the news is good, can be unset­tling. Sud­den­ly, you’re just anoth­er body, a clock wait­ing to stop. Here’s a telling poem by Rick Camp­bell, who lives and teach­es in Florida.

By Rick Campbell

My heart was suspect.
Wired to an EKG,
I walked a treadmill
that measured my ebb
and flow, tracked isotopes
that ploughed my veins,
looked for a constancy
I’ve hardly ever found.
For a month I worried
as I climbed the stairs
to my office.  The mortality
I never believed in
was here now.  They
say my heart’s ok,
just high cholesterol, but
I know my heart’s a house
someone has broken into,
a room you come back  
to and know some stranger  
with bad intent has been there
and touched all that you love.  You know
he can come back.  It’s his call,
his house now.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright © 2006 by Rick Campbell and reprinted from Dixmont, Autumn House Press, 2008, by permission of the writer. First published in The Florida Review, Fall, 2006. Introduction copyright © 2022 by The Poetry Foundation.

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