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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)


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