All in by Alix Wood

by Alix Wood

Four weeks after I lost him, my doctor asks,

Has anyone ever told you that you have a heart murmur?

I shake my head, swallow dust, and stare at a poster of bones.

Well, you do. But don’t worry about it.


How do I tell someone I have never not worried about anything in my entire life?

Heart, you are my hardest-working organ.

Inside me, a valve pulses open-close-open-close, mumbles beneath its breath,

clamors to be heard like the pounding of hooves against packed earth.

Five liters of blood pump through from toe to brain,

each cell a messenger horse carrying a blank letter.

Four weeks ago at the cape, he held me at water’s edge.

He told me if this is to end, let it end in a sunset.

The moment was so littoral I wanted to laugh, or scream, or both,

and a side stitch panged at me like a boxer delivering a sucker punch to my waist,

drawing the air from my lungs into polluted atmosphere.

Heart, you are a closed fist, but my palms are always open.

A pig’s aorta keeps my grandmother’s eighty-five-year-old body alive,

its length stretching from left ventricle to abdomen like a bendable straw.

Just once, I think I see my future.

Just once, I want to be clean.

Inside me, a quiet sound pounds soft as a horse’s nose.

Doctor, does the heart murmur when it’s made a mistake?


Alix Wood was raised by two mothers on Anna Maria Island, Florida. At the University of Vermont, she was the editor-in-chief of Vantage Point, the school's literary and art magazine. This is her first professional publication. Alix currently lives in Vermont and works at a tea house.