Day 64 – July 8th – An Unshared Heart

An Unshared Heart
 
Arms and legs tangle, embrace
You and I are Me
welded by a single beat.
 
Not two years old, doctors warn:
amputate or die.
This heart can serve only one.
 
Love beyond comprehension
I was assigned Take
while you were appointed Give.
 
By giving half, took the whole
separate, sacrificed
disconjoined, Me surrendered.
 
Removing one will cost both.
Internment ending.
Lonely, unshared heart breaks twice.
 
I do not exist without
Me, you, we, us, Me.
Gently: final beat. Silence.

 

I am currently reading a book called The Girls, about a pair of conjoined twins. There is a moment in the book were one of the girls is reading about other people who have experienced the same situation in life. Today’s poem was inspired by the unimaginable love between the two baby girls in this excerpt from the book:

I opened a small red book with no pictures and read a story that haunts me, like music. The story of Minnie and Marie. Minnie and Marie were born joined at the chest (that would be a thorapagus conjoinment) in Wales in 1959. The combined weight of the girls at birth was only seven pounds. By the time they were eighteen months old, they’d spent more time in the hospital than out. Minnie and Marie were physically beautiful babies with porcelain complexions and thick black curls, and they laughed more than they cried. The babies embraced and kissed each other often, but they also fought viciously and sometimes had to be restrained by the nurses. They were slow developing language skills but communicated easily with each other. For some reason, they each called the other “Marie,” which they pronounced “Me.” Their adoring nurses and doctors called both babies “Me” too. Minnie and Marie were normal in all aspects except that they shared one heart, which began to fail as they neared their second birthday.

Specialists were brought in on the case, thoracic and vascular and cardiac surgeons, all of whom proposed sacrificing the sicklier baby, Marie, and giving the shared heart to the stronger twin, Minnie. Their mother, panicked by the ticking clock and the doctors’ insistence that both girls would die if something wasn’t done, agreed to the surgery. She kissed baby Marie good-bye forever while she prayed that the shared heart would work in baby Minnie. The heart did work in Minnie, better than the doctors had dared hope. When little Minnie opened her eyes a few days following the surgery, the roomful of doctors and nurses erupted with applause. The baby clapped too, then reached out to embrace her sister, frightened and confused to find her twin gone. Minnie searched the room for the face of Marie. “Me?” she whispered. The doctors and nurses fell silent. The baby looked around again. “Me?” she begged. “Me?” Then she looked down and, suddenly, seemed to understand that her sister had been amputated from her chest. “Hurts,” she whimpered, touching the white bandages. She found the eyes of her mother, who by this time was awash in tears. “Me,” Minnie said once more, then closed her eyes and died too.

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