A Bedtime Story about the Heart

by Laura Villareal

The only thing sensible about the heart is its shoes.
             When the heart is sent away from home
                         it only takes a small brown suitcase filled with air—

the reason is unclear, but like I said, the only thing sensible
            about the heart is its little white sneakers. Every heart starts
                        out like this—with pristine shoes that stay that way until

it’s sent out into the world, because the heart is accustomed to being carried.
             Every heart is sent away from the body eventually
                         to live with a new person for a while. Just to check things out.

The new person learns that the heart melts a little
            when it’s given coffee in the morning & how it likes its
                        fruit to be cut instead of eating it whole & that it swallows

its pomegranate seeds & that it can’t sing in key.
             This heart has no rhythm.
                        Or the heart’s needs are neglected & it rubs its little shoes in the dirt

waiting for promises to be fulfilled. Some hearts are twisted
             for the fun of it. Some are left blindfolded in the trunk
                          of an Oldsmobile somewhere in Nevada.

If the person the heart stays with is good & kind,
             the heart will send a telegram home & ask its body to come join them.
                          But if that’s not the case, then the heart must walk back home.

                                       It trips and falls a lot since hearts are top heavy. Its little shoes
             get covered in brown dust & fill with water when it rains.
The heart gets lost a lot on the way back, because it doesn’t know how

                                       to ask for directions or receive help. Eventually the heart makes it home,
             a bit bruised—sometimes a little worse for wear or addled.
But I’ve never heard of a heart that didn’t make it back.

                          If the heart makes this trip enough times, it will trade up for black boots.
             But not always. Sometimes the heart wears the soles off its sneakers,
lets the white stay brown, & puts duct tape over the holes.

                          I want to tell you all hearts find good homes eventually.
             I want to tell you they’re all taken care of forever.
I want to tell you that the body treats the heart well

when it comes home after its long journey. But the truth is,
             the heart’s body inflicts wounds worse than any other person could.
So I hope someday I find my heart’s boots abandoned at a roadside

                         museum full of dinosaur bones. The heart’s suitcase left butterflied in a small town.

I hope when I call its name it never answers.                                                   

When Joy Split Open

the moon inched closer,

howling like a harmonica.

you held a mountain

plucked from ivory

between your teeth.

my fingertips each ran

through agave fields

along your body until dawn

rose blushing at the skyline.

joy split open at its seams

& seeds fell out. I measure

distance in stellar magnitude—

how smallness becomes larger

when held closer.

Laura Villareal earned her MFA from Rutgers University-Newark. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in AGNI, Black Warrior Review, Waxwing, and elsewhere. She has received scholarships and fellowships from National Book Critics Circle, Bucknell University’s Stadler Center for Poetry and Literary Arts, Key West Literary Seminar, and The Highlights Foundation. More of her writing can be found at www.lauravillareal.com.