Share This Poem: “After having heart surgery, I ask my new love,” by Kelsey Ann Kerr.

Call me a Hindu god; my heart feels less now …”

BROAD STREET presents a new poem by Kelsey Ann Kerr in keeping with our seasonal “Small Things, Partial Cures” theme. You can print out the broadside by downloading it at home, or scroll down to read in larger format. Be sure to visit us at for more features.


After having heart surgery, I ask my new love

to unzip my sternum’s wound

and spill it all out, hold

my lungs in stitched hands,

test their beat beat with spirometers

as he meters my heartbeat, holes

covered by bovine pericardium. Call me

a Hindu god; my heart feels less

now, has been meditating

for twenty days, eyes down,

refusing to see any other beings

but their shadows as mother, father

take stitches out of one another.

dexterous hands slipping

surgical scissors under

sutures, snipping, relieving

each other of the tension

from being strung up. I am

strung out, still in post-surgery

depression, chest compressed

from the lack of genetic

arms to wrap me shut.

As my love takes all of me

I resent it all:

my father not standing

by my side, running

the heart-lung machine

to breathe for me as I am open

on the table, exposed

to people I barely know.

After the flaps are shut,

any levity leaps

with a shudder.


Kelsey Ann Kerr’s previous work can be found in Stirring: A Literary Collection, New Delta Review, Mezzo Cammin, The Sewanee Review and the Atlanta Review, among others. She has received scholarships from the Sewanee Writers’ Conference and the Big River Writers’ Conference, and her poetry has been nominated for Best of the Net 2017 and 2018.

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