Off the Shelf
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Stunted by the shadow of its flow

pouring, rumbling in a lifelong swing

through the raging heart of darkness rings

the steadfast drip: a weak and lonely bruit,

and pitting insult in the turbid skin

with shocking faults to grimly thinning walls

the fallen house still stands; the flagging strands

and edematous sands chafe the burning soles.

Statuesque, he shifts his swollen ruin

laying, turning to dispel the pain

the tightened breath, the hypercapnic brain;

and ushering the mad errata

speaks to the miscellaneous shapes:

a reaction to digoxin

or the amorphous figures fidgeting

with drugs and dials, while he ponders

the pages never written, the stubborn weight

of things abandoned and retained,

the drinks that oft were drunk

and clouds that moped behind the pelting rain

and out of hiding came to bear his fears –

plaques amassing in the tired works

from lipid laden in the careless years.

The children stake their futures,

the old remit their past

to live with wicked fibrillations

while the former pave their path

without the wet, tachypneic throes

breathing without the toll of having

chests like barrels or lungs iron-clad.

Mere words remembered, mentioned in the haste

of fateful falls and bobbing heads –

regurgitations in lopsided beds –

and grudging workers heeding muffled calls

awake physicians to a mourning place:

the red pools surging on this mount

and blue, congested hearts – still – waiting – count

S1, S2, the ominous swishing tune,

pouring out their hollow sounds, commonly found

to be more brisk than the cor permits

while time moves slowly through relentless fits.

They lumber towards the crowded doors

where revolutions start and finish;

the vacant, whooshing valves emitting

lives half-lived, binged, or lived too much;

aged perversely by their eating,

growing clammy to the touch,

and worsened by persistent sitting,

indicted by the minor scut

that filled those pipes in silent smite

and tasked the chambers, flogged the host

with the extremities of stresses,

as they reimbursed organic messes.

The telltale heart uprooted from its floor

to feel its final filling phase no more.

And running on motors and emotions,

bombshells and reverberations,

holosytolic and post-Romantic,

a heart devoid of delectations

strives in denial of a means

to turn back time, to have its body cleaned

of stagnancy and ripe transgressions,

engaging at last the right to life

to a last resort or forceful fight

replayed in echoes, stents, and rays,

ACEs and ARBs and conduction delays.

And always a minute behind

gasping at the gate, this ponderous form of late

finds solace in the daily grind: a way

of catching one’s breath, “yourself” (you jest);

but misplaced beats mistake their step

and fail to grant a moment yet

that does not cause a gasp.

Quoted by your pleural bases

and mindful of the AV gap,

your family surrounds the bed

with worried thoughts now racing through their heads,

with despondent but more youthful faces,

watching this inconsequential test

demonstrate the war beneath your chest,

where crests and troughs affirm the case

and imminent need of permanent rest

during your final excursion

into ventricular rhythm.

Steven Lange Steven Lange (13 Posts)

Medical Student Editor and in-Training Staff Member

Albany Medical College

Steven attends Albany Medical College as a student of the Class of 2017. Raised in Queens, New York, he earned a BA in English with a minor in Biology from Binghamton University in May 2013. Some of his interests include poetry, martial arts, traveling, and continental philosophy. He is currently aspiring to become a radiologist.