by JAH

My first stent, catheterized at sixty

Was placed in a branch of my tree crown’s heart 
By a cardiac surgeon, Dr. Bench.
“You're having a heart attack in two weeks,
It's inevitable,” he said, “given 
My pace, and blockage’s extent. You will
Die, or lie crippled, not yourself again?”
The pain I had waking up as if it 
Was a workday, not a Saturday, at 
2:45 am, Christmas Eve, warned 
Me. I needed to pee. Get up, Start the day.
Shower. Get dressed. I couldn't move a muscle.
I thought. I staggered to the bathroom.
Peed. I realized it was Saturday,
Something serious is wrong with my heart. 
I thought of you. How could I tell Chrisa?  
Was I having a heart attack? No way.  
If I was, I'd never have made it here. Know. I pushed the thought of you sidelong.
I pushed having a heart attack sidelong.
An afterthought sidled between brain and skull.
Pain radiated from my chest to my down my But not this bad. Thinking, it would pass if 
Left arm. I had chest pain before, but not

Like this. It was more centralized. Relative

To digestion or anxiety. This

Was different. I foolishly waited.

It's intensity lessened as I moved.

 By Sunday, it hadn't dissipated.

I pushed through the pain until the Divine

Liturgy was over (what better place

to die than in church). I told one one of my

Sons, a West Point Cadet, home for Christmas.

He drove me to the Emergency Room,

Called his mother, my wife, Chrisa at work.
A catheter, which Dr. Bench used to 
puncture my radial artery, and 
Thread it through my circulatory net.
Into the round, tree crown of my dark heart.
He secured it like an origami 
Embedded in a branch. Unfolded it, 
In the ballooned pithy wood, a solar 
Panel array in space. Where it started
Absorbing the sunlight of my life by
Melting its fat, and replacing its plaque
With the electricity in our blood.
My blockage, was tipped off by pain, Christmas
Eve morning, bad timing, and indicated,
In the local Emergency Room by
An erratic heartbeat. After being
Admitted, I was administered a
Nuclear stress test, which indicated
An abnormal blood flow. A resistance
Was short-circuiting my circulation.
Transferred to a medical center for
A cardiac catheterization.
After waiting like a plane, taxiing
From the terminal of my hospital
Bed to the wide runway, take-off mark of
The bright, operating table. The 
Surgeon showed his face, eclipsing the light. 
I remember the nurse with an apple 
Pie face who came to get me. She wheeled my 
Bed Into the surgical suite. I thought 
Hers would be the last freckled face I saw.
It was freezing cold, in there, probably 
To keep the whirring machines cool. Other 
People were there, too. It was busy. They 
Quickly introduced themselves while they were 
More focused on their roles. Several of 
Them, working in unison, transferred me 
From my bed to the operating room 
Table, Apple Pie Face, too. One of them
Took off my hospital gown, another
Shaved around my groin and wrists, a third wiped
Antiseptic over my fresh, shaved skin
A fourth injected my IV with heat,
A drug to partially knock me out, a
Fifth swung a blank monitor into view, 
A sixth dropped a terrycloth hand towel
On my groin. A seventh adjusted it.
They were everywhere working at once.  
Only after I was prepped, perfect, did
Bench arrive, gowned in scrubs: masked, caped, and capped.
He said, “I’m going to try to enter
Your body through your wrist,” which he did. As
He was threading the catheter through my
Body to my heart, he said, “I’m going
To take a look, and if there’s a blockage,
Or are blockages, which can be fixed with
Stents, I’ll make room for them with a balloon
And weave, and unfold them where they belong.
If there are several blockages, we’ll
Knock you out, and proceed to do open
Heart surgery, harvesting one of your
Legs for what your heart needs to be mended.”
Oh, my goodness. He punctured my thin wrist,
threaded a catheter to my black heart,
Lit it up roundly with a bright searchlight,
And shot contrast dye into its full, curved,
Tree crown. I saw it on the monitor.
My eyes were focused on the monitor
As if they were made of iron, and it
Was a magnet. That’s my beating heart, I
Thought, in black and white. It’s leafless, breezeless,
Life’s generator. The contrast dye was
Moving easily through its limbs and thin
Branches, like incense rising from a swung
Thurible, in church, which crucible is
Loaded with burning charcoal, and topped with
Grains of melting incense, myrrh, wafting smoke,
Only black, not white, except through one branch,
Offset, blocked by white fat, and plaque, over
Sixty years of losses, mistakes, children, 
Sins, rues, before the inserted balloon
Was inflated, pushing the fat and plaque
Aside, to make way for a stent. Once it
Was unfolded the hovering incense
Burst through, like an electric mourning dove
Flying, startled, seen in a quadrangle
From a class window, cypress to cypress.


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