Joseph A. Chelius works as a senior copy editor at a health care com-
munications agency in the suburbs of Philadelphia. He has a BA in English from LaSalle University and an MA in Creative Writing from Temple University. He has had two poetry chapbooks published with Pudding House:
Taking Pitches and Row House Yards.

Heart Talk

For John and Mary 

Each day the cardiologists drop by
my nephew's room to dissertate
on pleural effusion and the Fontan Baffle,
but it's the language of the hands I follow:
the nurses' touch around the hospital bed,
replenishing fluids, keeping charts;
and my brother's caresses as he whispers
to his son, "Hang in there, Buddy . . .
we're pulling for you,"
the words so nondescript they make me think
of baseball chatter,
or that tactile conversation men employ
on the job or field:
the ball whipped round the horn
after competent play, smacking
the leather of each fielder's glove
in short declarative sentences;
or the right tool passed up,
the flashlight beam as solid
as a knitting needle, threading
the way through a darkened place. 

How serviceable such gestures,
like the small goodwill offerings
we partake in throughout the day:
a door held open;
or here in this hospital room
as we sit telegraphing signs
of solidarity and support:
the pumped fist, the quick thumbs up—
the language we find for the worn-out heart,
pulling us through with its common thread.