Translate chemistry into Spanish, and iron
is faith—this pile of shavings,
the devil's own toenails, the same
ore that's at our origin, heme.
Of all the metals, the ferrous to me seems
fairest. Aurum is more ardent, argent
rarer, but blood's core ore, though everywhere,
is precious air. I prefer
meteoric iron, pig iron, iron wrought or rust
(its every red felicitous for us)
to fetid sulfur and the fey ironies
of faded faith. Without heme's boxcars, our
carbon would oxygen-starve, without heme's
hexagon, the only ferris wheel
air cares to ride. Breath's effort otherwise
would be nothing for, sigh after sigh heaved
through a sieve. Hymn heme,
this matter of life and breath, using the very
inspiration it is carrying. Hymn heme
for carrying us home,
in the femoral Styx, in the infernal vein
this iron oar of the Ferryman.
Amit Majmudar is a physician living in Ohio. His poems have appeared in Poetry, Image, First Things, The Kenyon Review, and other journals. This poem originally appeared in the Summer/Autumn 2011 issue of the Bulletin.