David Steinsaltz


The Oxygen Paradox (1995)


Wait for it.

The story is after.  After

The heart attack

Is repulsed,

When the arteries are undammed,

Once fresh blood and

Now that molecular oxygen

Have returned,

After the heart can breathe again,

It is then

The muscle is beset,


And destroyed.

This is a "paradox".


In the best scientific journals

This is all

Well explained.

Free oxygen radicals

Are to blame

(The radicals typically are).

They swarm

Like pheromoned mosquitoes

Greedy for contact

Greedy for bonding

Greedy for reaction

Into the still quaking,

Still quivering,

Still beating


They are so eager,

So reactive,

So numerous

They rip through every sheath

To feed the starving within.

The cell dies, of course.

Masses  die

And are torn apart.

Coherence is ended.

And the still straining,

Still fragile


Is still.

So it is with so many


And organs

And organisms

That are too delicate,

Too dependent.

We survive the starvation and the siege,

But succumb to the reperfusion.