Heartbeat Hypothesis

by Robert Wood Lynn

As it turns out there is this silly trick to knowing how long you,

no anybody, no any creature will live:

divide the average lifespan of an animal by its metabolic rate


and you will get a number that is about one billion. That’s what we get,

about one billion heartbeats on this planet

one billion, a magic enough number and even though physics has struggled,


struggles and in all likelihood will continue to struggle forever to find

its unifying equation, here is biology’s, the kind

of surprise you trip over because it has just been sitting there all along,


like a golden retriever on shag carpeting, one already most of the way

through her billion and where she is joined by

the field mouse and the blue whale each getting one billion beats on Earth


unless someone or something intervenes and quiet now you can hear it

tick ticking away, your billion ticking like the kind

of clock they mostly don’t make anymore and once I believed that


in every clock there were tiny creatures moving the parts and now

I cannot help but know inside of these creatures

there are more parts marching even faster to the same number


onebillion onebillion onebillion and it can drive you mad even

billionaires go mad cartoonishly mad with the one

thing they cannot buy more heartbeats and they sit in a tube someplace


air-conditioned in Arizona their rhythm frozen while animated mice

power the clocks and calculators that keep this math

like a metronome:       terrible, free.

Robert Wood Lynn is writer from Fauquier County, Virginia. His poems have been featured or are forthcoming in American Literary ReviewAntioch ReviewBlackbirdSuperstition Review and other journals. He lives in Brooklyn and is currently pursuing an MFA in poetry at New York University. 

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