Beneath My Heart (poem for Nigel and John)

(“John” by Nigel Cox)

Beneath my heart

Beneath my heart lies memory

unheard, but still seen.

body upon body indistinct,

desperate to be free.

Beneath my heart lies memory,

a thousand moments lost,

where once on blood they flowed

now chambered, enribbed they be.

Closed away, almost drowned,

cries lost to the rush

of life from heart to veins course.

A thousand bodies with no substance,

scrambling over history.

One door closes, the other swings free.

Between beats, wing whispers confuse me.

They say that time heals all wounds,

that age transforms

memories from the bold,

to the carefully retold.

No one speaks of memory’s habit

of carefully restructuring the truth.

They are not moments of life,

but remembrance of wishes.

Even the sun shines brighter in dreams.

Memories restrain us like bars on a cage,

our hands reach out and stop as if at boundary.

Our eyes seeing not what has been, but what is not.

Beneath my heart lies memory

and I know that none of it could have been,

the way it is written within me.

For there is nothing that is free

from the colour of our being.

Shades of grey the palette,

black and white the visions seen.

Heavy are the memories indeed,

to sink through muscle

and bottom rib seed.

A garden grown

full of distorted things.

How does this come to be?

What happens to original vision?

Pure and perfect and as it is meant to be seen,

unstained as yet by tears wept

over things not real, but perceived.

They say the only life worth living

is the present.

But I have yet to meet the soul

that does not, with vision blurred,

gaze future forward,

hoping to find the past preserved.

Age lends strength to the muscle of the heart,

to hold memory below and examine its lying art.

To discover what was once thought,

to find where we now stand,

to try to decipher the conspiracy we didn’t realize we planned.

Age it is that gives us freedom,

to see where we have come from

and to know we are lost to where we go.


I loved so much, once.

And then, I loved again.

Three times death has made of me a lying man –

swearing that in that moment, the world would end.

And once –

I thought I saw beauty,

and by it learned the Devil’s name.

Every part of me is discolored with age,

stretched by time and ground by pain,

yet still my heart beats on

as if I were a young again.

But it is not youth that drives muscle so,

but thousands of memories

crowded between heart and rib and skin,

pushing against body,

straining to find blood’s flow,

freedom to raise voice and ride course,

freedom to see the world

and be believed



(if you don’t know the story, Nigel Cox is a painter in the UK who began listening to my recording of “the heart of failure” while working on his portrait of a man named John. When he was done, he tracked me down on the internet and sent me a photo of his painting and the story. I promised to write a poem in response to the painting. “John” was recently part of Nigel’s solo exhibition in a London gallery, set off from the rest of his paintings – with the heart of failure playing in the background)

c.2011. Cassandra Tribe. All Rights Reserved.


About cassandratribe

"There are few artists that can do what Cassandra Tribe does. Whether with her poetry, her videos or her blog, Cassandra examines the truths that most of us can never come close to realizing and shows it for what it is, both beautiful and frightening at the same time. She exposes our inner-most workings like the cross-section of a powerful but flawed machine, our gears and springs, nuts and bolts removed and laid out before us. She is a true artist. Her new video, Requiem for a God, is the latest example of Cassandra's willingness to tear open and examine the very things that make us human. Shooting the film entirely by herself, she also eliminates all the little excuses we come up with to keep us from ourselves and our truth. You see, even when she's not trying to be, Cassandra Tribe is a beacon of truth and humanity in this darkest of worlds." (Michael E. Quigg, The Culture Network, June 2009)
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