A Violence by Sheleen McElhinney

Jul 7, 2024 | Bubbler, FSR

On the day my father had his open

heart surgery, they cracked him

apart like a wishbone, pried him

open like a lobster tail. A gloved surgeon

on either side digging in and pulling

away with heft, my father a lush

pomegranate halved. His very sweetness

oozing onto the table–his heart then,

like the shivering mouse he found

in the laundry pile, scooped into an empty

detergent cup, and offered to me as a gift,

there, in the center of his chest, curled

up and failing in a nest of arteries, rising

and falling in a shroud of fur, my warm

exhale, lips grazing the thin petal

of ear, eyes closed, breathing life into a dying thing,

before I held it once in my hand, then sealed it

back inside the cool wet umber of the earth.

Sheleen McElhinney has appeared in Abandon Journal, West Trade Review, Lily Poetry Review, Sepia Quarterly, and others. Her debut book, Every Little Vanishing, won the 2021 Write Bloody Publishing book award.