Stayin' Alive

The popular 80’s hit has a tempo of 100 beats per minute, which is the same tempo at which one should give chest compressions during CPR.

—The American Heart Association








sometimes, I remember

she’s thirteen now, old enough to learn

about first kisses and like liking and

that feeling when your heart starts running

after that certain someone in algebra.


But, sometimes, I remember

she’s thirteen now, old enough to learn

about heart attacks and EKC devices and

that feeling when her heart starts running

and it just won’t slow



Maddie’s heart is a big fist full of

tangled braids. It’s a van going 70

on Highway 17 at 9:30 on a Saturday,

and the signs are fuzzy and everywhere.

It’s this big engine in this tiny, tiny boxcar,

but the engine is claustrophobic,

and it can’t stop climbing up and down

the walls. At any second, any minute,

everything could


a beat

break quit


out of

the room like the girls in the movies,




Maddie’s heart is broken.

Sometimes, it beats and beats and beats and

I’ve been told it’s prone to stop.

Sometimes, I don’t go out



sometimes i swear


i come home and i see her

i see the faucet is running

and i see her

see her slumped over on the counter

the whites of her eyes peeking out

and she's looking at me

every time she's looking at me

i see something i don't understand,


I see that

she’s thirteen now, thirteen, old enough,

barely old enough to understand how hearts

tug at you and hold you tight and

I see her

high school graduation gown,

wedding dress, engagement ring,

all still and stagnant, shadowed over

by a slab of concrete, wordless obituary,

stagnant, still there’s


no breath

no mind

no date no time just a





time of death

and every time i

always stand there

i always

stand there

but i know i should be running

to what from what i don't know

but i know i should be running



fast running


You see,

Maddie wants to be an actor,

or a comedian, or both, or

neither. I don’t know exactly,

i should know

i should know

i should know


she’s an artist.

She makes you feel with

every ounce of what’s

inside of you, makes your pulse

shoot up by ten, twenty,

thirty, even, and I swear

she’s meant to do things.

She’s the girl you see in those

documentaries before they make it,

hell, I look at her and she’s

made it, she sings with a voice

that, whenever I hear it,

I can’t help but stop and listen,

I know love when I hear it,

feel its hair brush against my cheek

whenever I hug it, see it

laugh and cry and dance and


I need to tell her.

I need to tell her that

I remember when she was just

three, counting on her fingers

for the first time running


two, she’s laughing, now,

she’s laughing and she’s happy now running


one, she knows my name. running


saw her running

she’s running


There are fire engines in the driveway.

Fire engines don’t belong in driveways.

They belong in those stations downtown,

class field trips in the first grade, big parades,

roads on the radio with traffic accidents,

things meant to be foreign, falling, fire, failure

to breathe through flimsy lungs, failing heart,

I guess the driveway’s on fire anyway




her heart is still running

it’s running



she is still running


she’s running



​her heart is still running





it stops.


This poem is about: 
My family
Poetry Terms Demonstrated: 



Apologies for the odd formatting--originally the poem was more spaced-out and abstract on the page. Still trying to get the hang of how spacing and tabs work on this website.

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