Painting the Heart

Editor’s Choice: 2024 Philadelphia Stories Poetry Contest

I wanted it pink, then blue, yellow.

I wanted it beating on the table.


What kind of paint sticks to flesh,

covers the inside?


Widening in the abdominal artery.

Every year, I have to get a picture taken.


Not painted, traced with dye.

The dye does not stick, runs out.


Warm when it goes in.

They tell you this, to expect it.


Someone said it’s not about understanding.

It’s about pulse, the rhythm the heart takes to heart.


I tried to paint my feelings. I wanted the colors distinct,

the way a child separates foods on a plate—nothing touching.


The colors ran together.

It was a big brown mess.


I tried to paint what I saw.

The more I looked, the more complicated the forms became.

Alison Hicks was awarded the 2021 Birdy Prize from Meadowlark Press for Knowing Is a Branching Trail. Previous collections are You Who Took the Boat Out and Kiss, a chapbook Falling Dreams, and a novella Love: A Story of Images. Her work has appeared in Eclipse, Gargoyle, Permafrost, and Poet Lore. She was named a finalist for the 2021 Beullah Rose prize from Smartish Pace, and nominated for a Pushcart Prize by Green Hills Literary Lantern, Quartet Journal, and Nude Bruce Review. She is founder of Greater Philadelphia Wordshop Studio, which offers community-based writing workshops.