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Fall 2018: Derek Mong

The First Heartbeat 

doesn’t splash down,
a space capsule 
blinking its beacon 
to be found.

What warmth it bodes
derives from swarms; 
cells converge to thrum 
a rhythm.

I think of yours
and think of crowds, 
sourceless and surging 
through a cross-

walk, the footsteps
thickest beneath 
the stoplight’s bleating. 
That apex

bears the largess
of everywhere 
we’ve traveled. You hold
whole cities. 

To dip an ear
into these notes 
then tip our heads back 
and float un-

fastened—thank you
midwife, thank you 
“fetal Doppler”—melts 
us, mute now

as the novice
who—scoping our dark, 
cosmic start—

yearns to brush knees
with a stranger. 
Your broadcast broadens 
our tiny 

kingdom. We ask, 
for now, just this: 
let us never hear
your last one. 

Derek Mong

“The First Heartbeat” is from The Identity Thief by Derek Mong, published by Saturnalia, September 2018. Reprinted with permission.

Poet, essayist, translator, and scholar Derek Mong is BKT Assistant Professor of English at Wabash. His collaborative translations—with his wife, Anne O. Fisher—of Russian poet Maxim Amelin won the 2018 Cliff Becker Prize. Identity Thief is his second book of poetry.