Benjamin Acosta, '23
Atrial systole. Ventricular systole. Heartstrings tugging at the valve. Such is the rapid repetitive occurrence as the carpenter heaves her saw across the oaken grain. The sweat beads decorate her face beneath a red sun, a hot sun, hot as her passion for creating palaces, for building this town. This is here, this is in the distant past.
Here, now, a clump of muscle and tubes, dripping, drenched, fresh—there on the floor. A removed heart resting on the surface of a puddle. Here it is morning, here it is bright, the sun in the east window marks the floor unmistakably red. He doesn’t remember or wonder about the woman who all those years ago hammered together these floorboards, these boards now soaked, now silent beneath two bodies. His body stoops over the other, ventricular systole threatening his ears. Tears drip, stream, patter, reminiscent of the rainy nights when the two bodies had ventured in the outskirts, when both were warm. The blood beating its way up and around his brain carries from his heart remorseful whispers of the hours they spent fantasizing tales into the clouds. Now his love for his friend pools and soaks into the floorboards.
Below the floorboards, where the love drips (though really it is still in the heart of the heartbroken boy) a woman is on the floor, on her face, towards the sun, towards a special place. This is not the land of prayer, this is not the town of religion. Fire for a deity, reverence in an irreverent place—thus does love burn for God. She prays how she always has, but in her heart she includes a hope of consolation for the wailer she hears above. Beloved stranger.
It was here, just the night before: a man, a carving knife, a kid he’d been following for hours, an evisceration. As the man trespassed into that kid’s room: atrial systole, ventricular systole, they traded off quicker and quicker. A thrill in stalking, in anticipation, raced in the organ of love. Then slicing open the kid’s chest, something opened in the man. Something joyous, some esoteric passion, an awe at the spattering on the walls. The love that, here, now, stoops and weeps for times now ended will never understand that man’s love for the redness of humanity, for the canister of love wrenched from its cavity, for death. Never would that broken heart share in the man’s perception of beauty in the dripping clump, red as a valentine.
Here, in the wooden courtroom are mothers and others—everyone who could never understand. This is the pounding of one heart amplified. Here love veils as rage, an impostor equally red. This is the quick condemnation: death to murderers. The judge conceals a smile upon looking at the killer. Such is the grip of justice in that room, imbued with the passion of a forgotten carpenter.
A carpenter births a town and gazes satisfied from a hill upon its completion. The hill commands a sunset view to far outmatch her infrastructural artistry. She is there because she loves to tear down the trees and create homes.
Now on the hill is a guillotine, a relic somehow brought out this way. The man in the guillotine is here because he loves the sight of hearts, of blood, like his childhood’s valentines. The boy is here because he loves his friend, still, though half their love is dried into a wooden floor. The woman is here because she loves God and loves the stranger boy who wept. The judge is here—as are the mothers and all the others—because she loves justice. All on the hill. Facing the sunset. Tense, like contracted myocardium. As the guillotine begins to sever his nape, the man wonders if they do not love death also, if they do not love the way the blood stains the blade and the hems of their clothes. But he is probably just crazy. Ventricular systole. Stop. The boy still cries.
Confused and temperamental as a cauldron of boiling blood—such are the hearts on this hill. Heartstrings yank violently at the valves. For love, they are willing to kill. Something is close to tearing inside. The sunset is suspiciously red.