The heart, the heart, the hunger by Mildred K. Barya

I once had a blue wooden horse

Maybe it was brown

I carried the horse everywhere

I slept with that horse

Fed it all my love

Gave it all the love it could never return

I called it mother horse and it broke me into

Crimson speckled fragments like crawling insects

The smallest is said to be the fairy fly

It lays its eggs in the eggs of

other insects. Parasitic wasp.

You’d need a microscope to see its heart.

The human heart is like that sometimes.

Did you know the Etruscan pygmy shrew

Is the mammal with the smallest heart?

It eats constantly, as much as twice its

body weight to avoid starvation

I incline my ears to the little mammal

1,200 heartbeats per minute

How fragile, how tender and tough

Savi’s pygmy shrew, White-toothed pygmy shrew

Carrying the weight of

too many names, too many beats, for a small heart.

In cremation, I am told, the heart is the last organ to burn.

Bit by bit.

Mildred K Barya is Assistant professor of creative writing and literature at UNC-Asheville, board member of African Writers Trust (AWT) and has published three poetry books, plus short stories in various journals. She holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of Denver & blogs on literary matters at