Ann Townsend

(1962 / Pennsylvania / United States)

The Coronary Garden - Poem by Ann Townsend

What a fine package
you've come wrapped in.
A swathing of hospital cotton,

from the brisk whiteness a tulip unfolding from
each wrist.

A conduit, first here then there,
your blood in its orbital system
circled safe in its chamber until

you let it out. Why did you let it out?

Plasma makes a great adhesive, a sticky blessing
between us. But I'm not the wounded one.
They stick together, my fingers,

to the windowpane where I touch it.

With tulips, 'sometimes a rascally roote
produces a gallant flower.'
And there are 'some tawdry colors

that may be fringed with beauty.'

My hand on the windowpane it leaves a mark.
The blood makes it tacky.
A transport medium the doctor says,

rinsing his in the cleansing water.

Food, excrescence, lymphocytes, oxygen,
the red blood cells like cheerful donuts -
all on my hands

my hands a testament to your profusion

and you oblivious
to the leakage we found together,
the doctor and me, him patching you,

me scooping up the shape the red assumes

as it coagulates into your palms,
into glue and glove,
the doctor shaking free of it,

and if I loved you better

would this mortal scene stay unwritten?
They 'love an airy, moyst place,' the tulips,
their fabulous tongues.

The flowers you choose for your coronary garden

will crown your head when you die.
You grow the tulip 'for it is the pearle
of the coronary garden,' with ivy, vervain,

roses ferried from Egypt , asphodel,

any twining plant that might make a garland.
The garland it rides out many occasions.
When Hippocrates cured the plague of Athens

by lighting fire to the city, the fuel therefore

was largely made of garlands.
Even a child may plait a garland.
Even a child can wear a light corona.

My hands your blood beneath the nails.

like a red manicure.
Now your arteries are like a garden,
bacteria thriving there and blooming.

Are you drunk yet

on the failure of the systems?
Can your lungs support the fluid
as it gathers and collects?

Can your heart percolate?

The rue of your garden it wards off drunkenness.
If I loved you more, wouldn't I have noticed
the grinding at the lip, the ataxia, you cumbered

by the darkness?

Despair needles you with its whisper,
it is agnostic, it believes in irony,
like a fly's buzz it is perception, a busy

blood clot that says alive, alive.

I'm not the stopped motion, the straight line out.
Your garlands are 'convivial, festival, sacrificial,
nuptual, honorary, funebrial.'

That spring, when we strolled in the rain,

you bent to the stone wall's alyssum -
bloom, stem, and root, you tore a handful free.
Against your mouth the petals

were a mass of stars winking out.

Now the heart beating in its wash,
nearly bled out.
Shall I braid a garland of rosemary, myrtle,

and what about apium, also called celery,

which bears the metallic scent
of blood in its leaves?
Shall I bring you celery?

Outside the body blood doesn't belong

the doctor says.
You lay there whitely smiling.
If I loved you more

why would I want to taste it?

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Poem Submitted: Thursday, August 7, 2014

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