“The Mother,” oil on canvas, by Elizabeth Nourse, 1888.

by Karen Paul Holmes

The sonographer’s cool transducer slides
across jellied skin. She watches
my heart’s movie projected by sound waves—
a stranger peering beyond the curtain
of my body into me.

Grief’s dirges must resonate
like a basso temple bell, casting
Rorschach inkblots of loss onto her screen.
Old anger thumps red, hard,
jealousy flaunts a jagged green scar—
does the technician raise an eyebrow?
She has seen it all before.
Surely there’s a balance of light,
a melodic throb: birthing a daughter,
attending the opera in a cashmere shawl.

I feel oddly intimate with this woman
who wrapped me in a heated blanket
because she knew the room was cold.
She’s the type who could give comfort
with a soft-bosomed embrace.
Perhaps her heart strums a duet with mine.
I hum a little tune from within.

“Echocardiogram” originally appeared in Iodine Poetry Review.

Karen Paul Holmes won the 2023 Lascaux Prize in Poetry and received a special mention in The Pushcart Prize Anthology. She has two books: No Such Thing as Distance (Terrapin) and Untying the Knot (Aldrich). Poetry credits include The Writer’s Almanac, The Slowdown, Verse Daily, Diode, and Plume.