Prophecy of the Heartbeat

by Chad Sweeney 

or the hours will drift sideways you’ll be
old in

Texas imbroglios of fire
tracing the objects in your kitchen

the pain in your teeth
the pain of all that never

will fissure the windows when trucks rattle past
or each time you marry

seven veils float as egrets over the delta

and each day will hold you like this
your eyes shocked open by love


or your most intimate moment
will be preparing your father’s

body for the wake

touching his jawline, his cheek, the
swelling in the neck, to loosen
his tie, his

hair, brush it over, the cotton in

his mouth, his
eyelids taped shut sorry
father his eye
brows penciled in jesus

help me the bruises in purple bloom
weeping and orphaned you

will be the one to do this

one morning the choir re
hearsing for paradise in the next room


or you’ll stand at the screen door
staring into a tornado
you’ll stand before a mirror your


dress fallen to the floor, you’ll
stand in the north field scanning

the rye for your daughter, black

shock of hair among the rows
you’ll return home to set the table humming


rob the bank you’ll answer the phone you’ll
brush your father’s hair yes you’ll
lift your daughter up to the sun

then bend to pick up the dress
and tomorrow and tomorrow
you will build a house of actions

in which to live

a river of fire and poppies coursing through you
on a Saturday bicycle, an August lawn chair

a train wending up the California Coast

running away running toward home at last
inside the motion

and if our alphabet were spoken
by a different sequence

where would this train be going

from the poet

“Prophecy of a Heartbeat” is a selection drawn from, The Futures, a book of prophecies comprised of a single poem, one sentence that begins with “or” and ends with “or” to show the continuity of time without end. The project is in dialogue with ancient and medieval traditions of prophecy, yet rather than representing time and “fate” as deterministic and linear, these prophecies attempt to trace multiple possible futures for an era of quantum physics and dramatic ecological and socio-economic changes.

Read the opening sequence from The Futures, “The Futures

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