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
                        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

            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.

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.