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“What is the heart’s shape?” one girl asks.
They have only known love
at its most Janus-faced, joy and pain,
and know nothing of the in-between.

Their mopey lyrics and sighing doodles
make the heart seem flat, cut out of
paper. So I take them to the prosectorium
and dare them. “See a real heart.”

They are shy, wise as brides
in veils of eyelet lace. What they know
peeks through. In the cadaver, they see finally
that the heart is not a delicate thing,

a foldable, burnable thing
but strong. A muscle. A fist of blood.
A spelunker’s cave where the
Minotaur roams.

Then a curtain is drawn
on the corpse’s face, a shiny, waxy thing.
Behind the eyes, the brain,
two lobes of it, looking lumpen in its labyrinth.

“Where is the seat of the soul?” I ask them.
Around the table, they look up, my girls,
faces corona-bright.
The answers are somewhere borne up

on the palanquin of their girlhood. In the arms
of lovers, over the corpse of tamed bulls,
or even alone, perhaps they will think on
the heart’s irregular shape, the brain’s symmetry—

and know the true form of things.



Genevieve DeGuzman was born in the Philippines, raised in Southern California, and graduated from Columbia University. Her fiction and poetry appear or are forthcoming in Indigo Lit, LONTAR, Liminality, Rising Phoenix Review, and AJ (now Tablet), among others. She is a winner of the Oregon Poetry Association New Poets Contest and has been awarded a residency at Can Serrat. She currently lives in Portland, Oregon. Learn more at: about.me/genevievedeguzman
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23 Jan 2023

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