I have spent altogether too much time trying to decide what I should say here.

True, I’ve had a lot of things on my mind these days. True, I work a humble day job as a teacher for individuals with special needs. True, I spend most of my day changing adult diapers, restraining clients from scratching each other, and letting my heart race when a student properly articulates my name.

Specifically, I have to make my heart race. My sentiment becomes a driving force, something to fuel my tired $11/hour paid body through 8 hours of constant miscommunication. My sentiment is the only thing that keeps me from detaching, that allows my body—racing heart, warm heart, heart-warming, heart-felt—to extend beyond itself.

I read on the train. I read while my body is jostled around, pressed up on by bodies of strangers. I read in the company of businessmen on their I-Pads, high school students on their I-Phones, and middle-aged women on their Kindles.

Homeless people wander from car to car. Sometimes they ask for money and sometimes they offer their bodies for money. They sing, or they beat box, or dance, or whatever. One time a man who called himself “The Poetry Man” offered to sell me a poem for 25 cents. I bought one. I read it. It sucked.

I walk home through a mostly black neighborhood to a mostly white neighborhood. That is what it is. I stick my headphones deep into my ears. No human voice can penetrate my headphones.

I find myself looking at people through windows and wanting to watch them look back at me. I find myself wondering, “What are you like? What are you really like?”

I have spent altogether too much time afraid of what I want to say here. Instead, I’ve just been watching the music video for “Open Your Heart To Me.” You know, that one Madonna song with the kid and the wig and the peep show. Remember now? My god, it’s so damn sexy.

For me, one of the most compelling aspects of this video is how the majority of the peep show sequence is from Madonna’s perspective. Her windowed audience appears in little still-life portraits, faces that resemble photographs or pulpy poster style paintings. They have come with the intention of objectifying her, but as she self-objectifies, she illustrates her method of fetishizing her own audience. She flirts, she performs, and she even prostrates herself before one of the windows, but one gets the feeling these actions are all scripted, incidental. When she begs her viewers to “open your heart to me,” what she really wants is for them to “turn the key,” to invite themselves into her publically mirrored private room. In effect, she wants her viewers to dance with her in the room, to understand her life from both sides of the glass.

Writing (really, everything) is like that.

Whether you know it (or like it) or not, dear authors of > kill author Issue Nineteen, you have opened your hearts to me. You hold the lock, but I, the reader, hold the key. I hold the lock, but you, the reader, turn the key. I’ll give you love, and we’ll give you love, if you just turn the key.

It’s not that hard. I’ll make you love me.

Alana I. Capria’s heart is a room filled with mold stench and old wooden planks. Here, the outside and the inside meld in a singular putrescence. She opens her heart when she tells us to

“Watch me bleat like the sheep I should have been born as and then let me go into the radiator slaughterhouse where I am reduced to my most valuable parts and forced to watch as all the extra sinew is tossed away.”

I live just a block from the slaughterhouse. I know what dead sheep sound like.

Andrew F. Sullivan’s heart is made of “dust and glass…bright yellow lights and gin and maggots…” He opens his heart when he offers to let us consume him.

“Our world likes to swallow its meals whole and shit out the bones in one long, skeletal strand—something to admire, something to call our own.”

Andrew Haley’s heart is full of pigs. He performs with verbs like smear, froth, promise, and scrawl. He cannot find the key, so he wants us to scratch our way into his heart. He says

“The life of animals begs from the end of the night”

I think I agree.

Dennis James Sweeney is waiting for us to invade his heart. He counts the minutes, 10:16, 10:20, 10:24. He waits in dread. He says

“It is impossible to escape the truth that you are alone, alone, alone.”

Drew Krewer’s heart is a hillbilly mansion, a boiled wine-filled hot tub, bobbing float toys labeled sacred and profane. He invites us to

“Behold the coil sublime, acquaint it with your retinas. It enters the pupil, and deep is the drilling. One must uncork for new beginnings.”

Greg Schreur’s heart is a waiting room. Interesting. Compelling just how much the waiting room and the peep show have in common. Schreur gives us glimpses of patients and their insides, their shared organs and their bellies pregnant with all-you-can-eat buffet food. He equates their insides to the numerical value of their outsides, as with

“The man on the stretcher attached to an IV stint, who doesn’t seem to have moved since he was wheeled in by a pair of orderlies [who] will certainly not count as one. Two-tenths might even be generous.”

Like so many of your hearts, Hajara Quinn’s heart hisses with hunger. She wants us to come in and warns us away in one breath. She confides that she

“[feels] like a motherless appetite/a planet/a potentlessness between my two legs…”

James Schiller’s heart is the cold yet strangely lugubrious “Hair Chamber,” a hollowed

“…field of individual bricks, bridled past a place name. Voices, a sweepstake of voices. Like so many things they were synthesized.”

Jeanine Deibel’s heart is “Phi is one of my faces”. She wears her heart on her face, not her sleeve. She lets us view her from the “aisle of your driveway,” her “movements across the street,” and a red mark that shows where our hands have claimed her. She illuminates how

“Absent of voice, you had one of those scrolling LED banners swiping across your face. I became immediately charged whenever you wrote something, the chakras running down my support beams all turned green.”

She kind of makes me want to break her door down and destroy her.

Jennifer Penkethman’s heart is a pretty ordinary apartment…until it isn’t. She shows us how opening your heart is about losing control (and watching yourself lose control).

“I saw that I had no choice, that it could get lost no matter what I did. There was very little I could do. A breeze blew over the field that looked like my apartment, and it felt pleasant.”

Jessica Farrell’s heart is a funeral home. She invites us to be dying and be dead. She teaches us to taste her blood within the sky, a “medium-rare shade of gray.”

“‘What’s not sanitary about a bunch of embalmed dead people?’ I asked. ‘Being dead.’”

Jessica Poli’s heart is the burial ground to Jessica Farrell’s funeral.

“Sarah will give birth to a beautiful boy who will die in his sleep. There is a place underneath the riverbed where none of this is real.”

Joe Milazzo’s heart is the town we all live in. The body, the town that is his and now suddenly yours. Joe Milazzo’s words are fucking you, let’s face it.

“Your letter has not yet arrived and you suspect it may have been intercepted. Cradled behind the tiny door and window whose combination lacks discretion is a muscle from the abdominal wall, as moist as it is ochreous. A testicle. A whole leg below the knee, the toenails contorted and opaque with growing.”

Joshua R. Helms’ heart is a “mouth into his chest.”

“our mouths are empty of teeth & our gums/healed with invisible scars”

Margaret Patton Chapman’s heart is “a small hole in the coarse dirt.” Most hearts are holes for planting people in, it seems. She teaches us

“To grow temperate men, spread some man seed on a cold mossy log in the forest near the river in early spring…Keep checking. Nothing will happen. This is fine; man-making often does not look like much.”

Matthew Wollin’s heart is a landscape of ruins and rules to be conquered. He implores our bodies to

“encroach outside concentric skins/as though they make distinctions/and pour out incandescent browns/like clear and vicous oil/emerging from a mouth.”

Megan Giddings’ heart is a summer sky fluttered with smells, a

“Spinach leaf in sparrow’s beak, blue sky, grey feathers.”

Michael Rerick’s heart is just a blueprint for a room.

“Planned and placed sidewalk trees have names we will not allow them to escape.”

Nathan Blake’s heart is a hiding place, a “kitchen cabinet cellophaned.”

“Even soldiers in their graves feel the urge to salute…”

Nathan Gale’s heart is a toothless maw, a

“horseshoe of pink soft gums.”

Parker Tettleton’s heart is not public when he is in public.

“Who isn’t inevitable sometimes?”

Rich Ives’s heart is a “marvelous sick miracle,” as the most heart-felt of hearts tend to be.

“This was excited this was excited this was excited.”

Rich Larson’s heart is a warm cocoon wrapped in a chilly basement.

“‘People can live a long time,’ Alex said. ‘A long, long time. If they’re smart and if they make smart decisions.’”

Susan Kirby-Smith’s heart is a big sexy scary Easter basket.

“Her pink candy fur burst toward him, and her long rabbit whiskers brushed his face.”

Taylor Hudson’s heart is a kitchen filled with stale afternoon light.

“A catnap, she calls it. A what is left behind. A shake a pillow from.”

Terese Svoboda’s heart is a bus you can’t stop once you’re on it.

“Even the angels wear skimpy veils, proclaim flesh. It’s Italy.”

TT Jax’s heart is probably a church. It is filled with self-disgust.

“I cajoled her, rocked her, sung to and stroked her; slowly her face eased, turned coyly into her dirty bonnet to reveal the inevitable pink of her eye.”

I keep reading about inevitable things…things ending…things dying…things cannot be stopped or contained in this room. Things moving on from one room to the next.

Zack Wentz has no heart.

“Must antiquity usurp utility? Sickie wondered. We brush our teeth with a paste of fossils. There was no face behind that beard of froth. Rabid!”

Meghan Lamb’s heart is a bunker filled with rough wool blankets, scraps and photographs of Christmas mornings. Meghan’s heart would like to shift from room to room and wander down the hall, but fears the sound of sirens in the distance. Meghan’s heart doesn’t like to get close to the windows these days. Meghan’s heart must gather what it still can, while it can.

Meghan Lamb