Women Are Doomed to Be the Angels of Love

This is so true I involuntarily doodle hearts everywhere I go. I sign my letters compulsively with hearts,

dream of disobedient hearts, work with hearts. I eat them. I boil sauces and the tomatoes on my cutting board form a daisy chain heart. My foot is a pretty ballet slipper,

Lisa Frank style, engorged with crusty satin hearts. I pronounce my name with an embarrassingly hearty accent. My colostrum pools with the plumping of an inflamed heart

inspired by the nutritional needs of my babies. Hearts spray-painted on trains are talismans, guiding me eventually to the Heart Afterlife where my treasured friends exist in heart time,

drinking wine and organizing a workers’ collective named Heavenly Valley Emotional Laborers in the mossy hidden Heartclouds where my restless heart tires of hearing famous singers

singing sweetly about unsatisfying love in the grocery store when their hearts could be screaming about environmental devastation and global capitalism;

the way this callous dorm pillow I saw online plastered with hearts and dream catchers says “only good vibes” is in no way related to what the hearts of this country really need.

On good days I submit to being a committed student of the heart. On bad days I am paranoid and anxious about my heart being kidnapped by intruders in blue uniforms,

and how the scene in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom where the sacrificial victim’s heart gets ripped out in one of Hollywood’s stereotypical cinematic presentations of indigenous culture

nevertheless sent me a message about men who are so powerful they could take what they wanted from my body with their bare hands.

“Where do bad folks go when they die?” asks Kurt Cobain on my favorite Nirvana album. I replace “folks” with “hearts” and marvel at the candor of strange smarmy men on tv who want

to be president, who have no clue that being part of a community is different than owning investments in a city. My heart is stone sore. My heart wants to close forever

to protect me from market combat. But as a black woman bred for strength and openness I lack options. I’m pretty good at the precarious art of choosing what gets in.

Doom makes a great gatekeeper:
it’s rainwater in a vase of roses on a sleeping hero’s grave.


Nikki Wallschlaeger’s work has been featured in The Nation, Brick, American Poetry Review, Witness, Kenyon Review, Poetry, and others. She is the author of the full-length collections Houses (Horseless Press, 2015) and Crawlspace (Bloof Books, 2017) as well as the graphic book I Hate Telling You How I Really Feel (Bloof Books, 2019). She is also the author of an artist book called “Operation USA” through the Baltimore-based book arts group Container, a project acquired by Woodland Pattern Book Center in Milwaukee. Her third collection, Waterbaby, is forthcoming from Copper Canyon Press in 2021.