After the Hospital


By Zach Goldberg

Everything tastes a little like copper. I bite
my own tongue to know the metal,
a polluted creek running down my throat.
Listen: when I say my heart is broken
I don't mean there's a girl. I mean
I went down to the river. I did not
swim. I did not take off my shirt.
My chest is a faulty switchboard
and I can still feel wires for weeks
after the hospital. Listen: the heart
in this poem is not a metaphor. I tied
a penny to a length of fishing line
and swallowed it. The tiny god inside me
leaps as fish do when they're too close
to air. Have you ever been held
hostage by your own pulse?
Nothing shines as brightly
as a coin freshly minted
by someone about to kill you.
But listen: this poem is not about love
or if it is, it is only in the way
that every poem is about love.
It’s about living with fear but living.
It’s about the process through which
tributaries become oceans.
It's about going down to the river
and seeing a child and his father reeling
in their fishing line. A boy kicking straight
across the swimming hole. A girl
who is not at the water but floats
at the edges of each sentence
and I can feel her there. Just
there.


Zach Goldberg is a North Carolina-born writer, performer, and educator. He facilitated and competed with Wesleyan University’s nationally ranked slam team (WeSLAM), and his work has appeared in Tandem and online via Button Poetry. Zach currently works as a theater educator and stage manager in Oakland, California.