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by Tania Hershman

I saw my mother’s
heart today. She pressed
up against the machine
while, a few feet away
I watched it load
on the computer screen.
Is that…? I asked. The radiologist
immune to the novelty
of inside views, nodded.

I’d helped my mother
get undressed, seen
for the first time
the vest she wore
to cover where her breasts had been.
I had not expected
several minutes later
to see her chest –
like wings unfurling –
open itself out to me.

Released, my mother stood
small and grinning
in her backless gown,
no idea what I’d seen
or what she’d shown.
I kept it to myself,
my mother’s heart.
It had not looked
as I’d imagined, but
like a star, shooting
through her ribs, that body
I used to be a part of.

Tania Hershman‘s debut poetry collection, Terms & Conditions (in which this poem first appeared), was published by Nine Arches Press in July 2017 and her third short story collection, Some Of Us Glow More Than Others, is published by Unthank Books. Tania is also the author of a poetry chapbook, Nothing Here Is Wild, Everything Is Open, and two short story collections, My Mother Was An Upright Piano, and The White Road and Other Stories, and co-author of Writing Short Stories: A Writers’ & Artists’ Companion (Bloomsbury, 2014). Tania is curator of short story hub ShortStops (, celebrating short story activity across the UK & Ireland, and has a PhD in creative writing inspired by particle physics. Hear her read her work on SoundCloud and find out more here:

Lead image: “Lilienthal monument in Berlin” (via Flickr user J. Triepke)