Kate Hendry

Progressive Heart Failure

Another conversation about death:
‘You can stab your heart – you won’t feel it –
the heart’s autonomous’ he says. I twist
my daughter’s abandoned pipe cleaner

into a blue, three-petalled flower.
My father’s heart is doing its own thing –
racing blood around his body too fast, forcing
him to lie down. Only he won’t.

Ok, maybe he’ll give up climbing mountains.
And caffeine. He’s agreed to get someone in
to climb on the roof when slates have slipped.
But slowing down? Stopping?

He tells me he felt it coming on one day
heading home from the city: his heart in his throat,
couldn’t catch his breath. Sixty-three miles to go.
Only an hour. He drives through it.


I imagine him clipping the edge of the road,
crashing down a heathered slope, trying to keep
his hands on the wheel, his foot on the brake
his lungs dragging in air. Breathe, breathe,
he’s telling himself. Why can’t he do something
to stop the car gliding over cotton grass,
sphagnum moss? An alluvial river.
He’s noted the water’s snaking path before,
always meant to stop the car, get out, examine
eroded banks. The words come at him –
meander, oxbow. The geography of it
first hand. The water rising up the windscreen.


On the sofa, he tells me the cardiologist
will burn his heart with radio waves.
He wants it done before the medics say
he’s too old for surgery. He wants his life back.

The next day, he heads home. He texts:
There’s fresh snow on the hills. It’s lambing
season. In the front lawn the first
bluebell shoots are coming through.







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