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A Purple Heart

Oct 30, 2016 | Curbside Consults

Sunny, wake up from your coma.

Let me oxygenate your purple heart.

Sunny, be brave.


I’m leaving the ICU for a few minutes. Just long enough

to obtain the nourishment I know you need.

Sunny, forgive me for being selfish.


I gouge the straw into a container to suck up some soy milk.

The device expands and contracts,

a living, breathing companion.

A vessel outside my chest

like a purple heart.


We called you Sunny because you blinded everyone with that smile.

Was that before or after the Fontan Procedure?


Before you, I was nothing.

You pulled me from wreckage.

You earned your purple heart.


On the good days you loved the morbid.

“I’ll slash Mother Goose with a razor,” you smiled and we squinted in delight.

“Jack Horner wasn’t so little. He got up from the corner and lowered the guard rail

then he pushed his thumb right through the young man’s sternum and

pulled out a purple heart, looking very much like an overripe plumb.”


Every day was Halloween.

You never had to dress up, just showed others

your costume, that jagged crack down your midriff.

How would Poe handle this?

Few have the patience to care about the misery of others.

“They sat, and while I answered cheerily, they chatted of familiar things. But, ere long, I felt

myself getting pale and wished them gone. My head ached, and I fancied a ringing in my ears:

but still they sat and still chatted.”


Sonny, I say, open your eyes.

Open your eyes and breathe deep. Breathe on your own.


Long ago, I decided, I’m not going to remember you as pale with sunken eyes.

I offered to give up my own heart for you.

They refused: “It would be unethical.”

Now look where we are.

Is it ethical to let my own flesh and blood die slowly in front of me?

Am I supposed to wait for the crows to come and peck out your eyes?

Would that last line make you laugh?

Oh, stop that—I have to put on my sunglasses.


Sunny with the purple heart.

Here’s the end of your favorite poem by Adrian C Louis.

“The night you puked purple splotches onto my new, white Levis

and a short, few years into your future

this lost nation would award

you two purple hearts,

one of which your mother pressed

into my hand that bright day

we filed you under

dry desert dirt.”


Purple: the color of deoxygenated blood and wine.

And, grape, your second favorite lollipop flavor.


Now you’re the purple vessel left behind,

Empty, like my soy milk container.

A relic alone on a deserted desk

for others to disregard

or recycle.


But, I’ll always wear you proudly upon my chest.


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© Richie Smith 

© Richie Smith