For the men

by Judy Kaber
The Waters
Second Place, May 2013
Judged by Linda Sue Grimes


who lie stretched upon the table,
hearts stopped, blood pumping
through a machine that kisses

it with oxygen, how much faith
they have to give themselves
up to the knife! Eyes fixed

on some inner world, a deep
chill settles in them, carries
them over the thick plateau

of the dead. One long slice,
bone saw cuts sternum, heart
lifted in someone else’s hand —

who can match this feat? Trust,
not in some oddly named god,
but in a surgeon, some simple

man who goes home, looks
at furniture on Craigslist, checks
his daughter’s algebra, fixes

the value of x. Don’t you wonder
what he sees in his dreams? All
those hearts! Like partners

he has danced with under
streamers of colored lights, each
one matching his step, each

a swathe of delicate cloth
beneath his hand. Always intent
on beat. But it is the men

on the table that I applaud,
led in the dance, eyes closed,
chests still for the moment,

believing, the way a woman
does, that through this magic
somehow this man will save them


In “For the men,” the speaker dramatizes the singular relationship between heart surgeon and patient and concludes that the man lying “stretched upon the table” is the one more deserving of applause for their metaphoric dance. The patient has to entertain belief boarding on “magic” like that of a woman who “somehow” believes that a man will “save them.” --Linda Sue Grimes

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