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Every third man among my friends
and neighbors bears a sternum scar
where surgeons spread his ribs apart
to do their healing work.

This half-hidden sign is worn,
like the hennaed beards of faithful
who've made the pilgrimage to Mecca;
or those select whose tribal tattoos denote
the brave who've passed a test of living.

Surgeons squinting in the cavity
see in the quiescent heart a damaged pump
to repair, replace a valve, sew up a leak,
scrape out a waxy clog in fuel lines,
while the auxiliary motor chugs a steady pace.

Emotions, too, may savage this tender muscle,
leave scars no scalpel will remove, of grief,
or unrequited love, or bitter gall of misplaced
trust, or shattered dreams of thwarted aspiration.

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