When fruit, say a peach, bruises, that’s the end. The bruise can be cut away, the sweetness of the flesh behind it sucked, but the bruise won’t recover. It will rot, continue softening, making all the yellow and soft pink go brown. We are different. The bruises of humans, probably of all animals, can recover. Marbled purple and black flesh – ink stained, thundercloud flesh – fades. A pummelled thigh turns pink again, the shapes of fingermarks on a gripped arm disappear, and the hurt goes. We are remarkable, recovering people! Look at out unmarked skin! Look at our scars! Torn skin leaves raised trails pale on tan, a memorial to the blood clotting and the skin reattaching of our recovery.
We can even restart hearts. Surgeons can cut through your breastbone to access your heart, can hold your heart in their hand, can rebuild your arteries with veins from your thigh. Surgeons can even take someone else’s heart and put it in your chest where it will beat and move blood and let you breathe and talk and walk around, perfectly alive.
But a “broken heart,” because it is a metaphor, because we are using the idea of a heart which has broken: cracked in half, crashed to the floor through trembling hands, been trodden on, twisted, oozed everywhere, bled on the carpet, shattered into pieces, flown about the room as little more than dust, nothing more than stars seen from a long way away, cannot be so simply sutured.
Our heart is really still quite whole, still beating quietly in our chest, doing what it does, pumping blood through our blood vessels. It was never broken, it is just words making imaginary incisions in the air.
And why “heart” anyway? Is it because it seems to be our heart that gets too big, constricts too hard, beats against the boniness of our ribs and sternum, the most wayward muscle?
The pulled apart peach, the sucking of sweetness. In the middle, which is another meaning of the word heart, is a seed, the redness around it bleeding into the slightly bruised yellow, all contained in skin. The seed at the heart is sharp edged and hard. You can keep it in your mouth long after the peach has been eaten, playing with it on your tongue.
The OED has 54 entries for heart, and then there are the compounds. You can have a “heart condition” or “heart disease” or “heart failure.” Or, you can have “heart-agony,” “heart-anguish” “heart-wound,” “heart-tearing” or “heart-hunger,” among many other things.
You can have heart-balm for heart-happy. You can have heart-rising. You can have heart-joy.