When did I last consider my heart,
pay it a little attention, honour
its sixty steadfast years in the dark?
Hardly notice it, my mind focused
on slicing an onion, on what I ought
to have said or done, the story I’m reading
now, Alice Munro, or remembering my dead
aunt Nin’s laugh, those half crowns for ice creams.
Yet all the time it’s working, beating on
constantly, like a god I forget
the existence of, keeping my blood
moving through its thousands of miles
of tunnels, making it still possible for me
to nod off after supper, to wonder
about Water Aid or no longer
postponing phoning my brother,
to nurse a baby grudge, fatten it up.
It’s the size of my fist and weighs no more
than eleven ounces. If I bend back
my wrist, I can see the pulse twitch.
Millions of times. You can do the sums.
That’s stamina for you, dedication.
Old squeezebox of mine, what do you mean
by your quiet insistence? What do you want
beyond the few lengths of the pool I swim
most days for you, and my sensible diet?
from The Man Alone (2008)