The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: JoAnn Balingit’s “Words for House Story”


Your Heart and How It Works

Your heart is a pump not much bigger than a sweet potato.
It weighs about half a pound. It is a hollow
            ball of muscle of butterflies of stone
connected to your arteries and veins.

Your heart is a steel wrecking ball, glove
unbuttoned at the wrist. Slip it off, see your heart
dented flat in places. Winking,
            a mirror ball all night tossing stars

Until pound becomes gush and sigh—and heart settles
           down to feeding cells, firing the dark
regions of your hungry brain, moving blood
steadily, without fail.

But we are all so deceived by the heart as a pump we forget
the heart itself is alive! Odd to think, the heart must pump
            blood to the heart. Feed
its own lush cravings. Dream—no matter

            how fast your heart beats—it’s how
hard your heart beats that’s wildly important.
(For while everyone knows that the heart beats,
very few of us know why.)

Your heart is tough but it can suffer
            injury, like any other part of the body. Luckily
given half a chance, a healthy heart will heal itself
if the cause of the hurt is lessened or removed.

Did you know, if all the work your heart does in one day
could be used to lift you off the ground, it would raise you
twice as high as the Empire State Building, twice as high
            as the lowest clouds in your sky on a brooding day?

This selection comes from JoAnn Balingit’s book Words for House Story, available now from WordTech Editions. Purchase your copy here!

JoAnn Balingit is the author of Words for House Story and two award-winning chapbooks. Her work has appeared in Best New Poets, Cutthroat, DIAGRAM, Salt Hill and Verse Daily; and she’s been a featured performer at Sunday Salon NYC, Woman Made Gallery in Chicago and Feats of Poetic Strength in Philadelphia. As Delaware’s poet laureate and an arts-in-education advocate, she coordinates the state’s Poetry Out Loud contest and Delaware’s Scholastic Writing Awardsprogram for grades 7 – 12. Fellowships from the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and the Camargo Foundation (as a 2014 Bread Loaf Bakeless Fellow in fiction) have been vital to her work. JoAnn is an assistant editor at YesYes Books. Please visit at!

Melanie Jordan‘s chapbook, Ghost Season, is available from Ropewalk Press; her work has been published in the Iowa Review, Birmingham Poetry Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Poetry Southeast, Third Coast, DIAGRAM, Southeast Review, and others. She studied Creative Writing at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga before receiving her MFA from Southern Illinois University Carbondale and her doctorate from the University of Houston. She currently teaches Creative Writing, literature, and composition at the University of West Georgia. Her debut collection,Hallelujah for the Ghosties, was published by Sundress in 2015.


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