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They Yanked Out Percy Shelley's Heart
By Amelia Parkison Edelman
When the poet perished,
Like Cowper’s each, alone
in a boating accident,
his body was brought
cobalt and cold and odd-mottled
to the beach, where they burned it for fear
of silent and barnacle-bred disease.
While dead Shelley’s chest gave birth to a sunset
he opened like an oyster, tugged
with flames like hooks like stares. There
was his heart—a strange juicy jewel
being freed from its cage, a reticent bird,
a herring whose net has relinquished
this small nautical gleam like a wound.
Then someone rushed in,
weirdly eager to pluck
the precious vegetable from its bone-church.
They shied from the bonfire,
wet gleam in hand,
to put that bloody, naked mouse
in the hand of Shelley’s wife.
She must have kept it, mustn’t she?
A scummy soap-dish occupant, or
the jellied contents of a screw-top jar,
reflecting the lid’s checkers in red and white.
I’m sure that high-necked, apocalyptic Mary
Shelley wasn’t squeamish—she,
Frankenstein’s young mother,
could have kept much worse
than a jelly-jar heart.
Quite the prize, this percussive beast
deprived of drum and burn and home.
Mary must have rested assured that she possessed the best
essence of Percy’s Romantic temperament, now cold
and rubbery, congealed like day-old food.
Perhaps her dramatic example, its blood-filled physicality,
is one to be followed. Should we give up
our ashes? Toss toes and breasts of beloveds,
lend their eyelashes to the wind?
we could keep their hearts,
stacked like shells
on the mantelpiece, like books or boxes or framed photos.
These jelly-jar hearts, winking gluttons and glowing,
for us to take down on holidays and dust
off like good china, like sugared peaches,
to hold their jeweled fire to the light
In the writer's words: "I'm a writer/editor/ghostwriter from NYC. I was recently selected for the Emerging Writers Workshop at the Center for Book Arts, and my work has appeared in/on a motley assortment of publications, including Qu.ee/r Magazine, So To Speak Journal, The Arts Politic Magazine, First Time Magazine, xoJane, Elephant Journal, NPR, MindBodyGreen, Thought Catalog, MTV Act, and others."
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