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Leonardo's Pen

Denise Bundred, Consultant Paediatric Cardiologist.

You filled a heart with wax to model the aortic valve in glass

with artery ascending. You pulsed grass seed in water

to visualise the flow.

How else could you know that blood curves

above each cusp to close the valve?

In the Villa Belvedere above the city of a thousand artists,

you mapped the impetus. Your pen hatched vortices on vellum

to match The Virgin’s curls.

You mirror-wrote in ink, arched words around

the diagram and fixed Science to its Art.

Five centuries pass before Magnetic Resonance

can image the heart of a child, asleep in a metal tube.

His aorta on my screen follows your vision in every line.

I watch systole circle like seeds above three cusps.

Diastole compresses them to complete the beat.


This poem links modern cardiology with Leonardo da Vinci, who described how the aortic valve works in about 1513.

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