Gerald Stern
Hearts Amiss

How wrong it was to look at those hearts incised

in maples and birches with a loving

arrow between them, especially when the tree

grew larger and the hearts expanded

the way they do and love took over the tree

and we said, “Here’s another” and our own hearts

broke in two with envy and regret

but what we didn’t know then was they were emblems,

signs, of something deeper and more discordant

for they—the lovers—had turned to sacrifice

and torn the other’s heart out from its moorings

and held the wet organ in their own hands,

loose and disconnected from the strings,

the hearts of lovers deeply separated

from what were once such arrows of desire,

and some were painted red on buried stones

planted in the ground like broken teeth.


Found In Volume 47, No. 02
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Gerald Stern
About the Author

Gerald Stern’s many books include Divine Nothingness: Poems (W. W. Norton, 2014); In Beauty Bright: Poems (W. W. Norton, 2012); Early Collected Poems: 1965-1992 (W. W. Norton, 2010), Save the Last Dance: Poems (2008); Everything Is Burning (2005); American Sonnets (2002); Last Blue: Poems (2000); and This Time: New and Selected Poems (1998), which won the National Book Award.