The Body, Before by Katie Hoerth

The Body, Before

Notice the geography of freedom–
this open prairie made of flesh, the slow
swoop of the back’s small, curvature of skull,
the belly’s subtle knoll. The mirror shows
this vista of my body and I gaze,
try to commit this scene to memory
like a valley filled with bluebonnets
in April, touch this land of milk and honey
before the fall, my exile from myself.

The cold ink on my skin. The thick black mark.
He draws a border on my body, says:
This is where I’ll cut you.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .But I hear:
separate skin from skin, flesh from flesh,
bone from bone. Even with the bridge
of sutures, healing skin, the growth of vessels
carrying my blood across this border,
this scar defines the woman I am now.

by Katie Hoerth

Editor’s Note: Blank verse gives this poem a subtle rhythm that reinforces the carefully constructed lines.

My Husband Never Buys Me Flowers by Katie Hoerth

My Husband Never Buys Me Flowers

I see them every Saturday, those men
cradling bouquets of fresh-cut flowers
in the grocery check-out line — dyed daisies,
carnations, or a single rose in rouge.

I’m emptying my shopping cart behind
one as he pays. He shifts inside his suit
taps a polished shoe, unsheathes his wallet,
disappears like mist into the night.

It’s enough to make a gal feel jipped
out of romance. Isn’t this what love
ought to look like: Men on tall white horses,
charming men with flowers in pressed suits,

men who slay the dragons, save the day?
I carry my own groceries to the car.
At home, my husband slumbers on the couch,
resting from another day of working

in the garden, trimming back the chaos
of the oak whose shade was suffocating
my marigolds. His open palms are blooming
with blisters like the petals of a rose.

by Katie Hoerth

Editor’s Note: The imagery in the last two lines of this poem pushes the reader out of the narrator’s mind and into a bouquet of emotion.

Spring Cleaning After Eden by Katie Hoerth

Spring Cleaning After Eden

In a perfect world, homes clean themselves.
There are no epic battles waged between
dust and vacuum cleaners, mud and mops,
order and chaos. Who could live in such
a place, she wonders as she thinks of Eden,
how her hands were idle, how she tiptoed
through a home she never felt she owned.
Here, the clutter’s hers and hers alone

to clear. She is the savior of this home –
the one who sweeps the cat hair, scrubs the stains
that mar her countertops, fills up the trash,
with yesterday’s mistakes – the empty bag
of potato chips, the crumpled letters
of apology the size of fists,
the bitten apple core that’s turning umber.
She fills the trash and Adam rises up
from his Easy Chair, lets out a grunt
and takes it to the curb. His work is done.

Eve puts her hands on hips and heaves a sigh,
declares this tidy paradise their own.

by Katie Hoerth

Editor’s Note: The blank verse of this poem slips into the reader’s mind with ease, supporting the narrative’s easy lesson.

The Grapevine by Katie Hoerth

The Grapevine

Every story is the same – there’s life,
there’s death, then life again, and now it’s spring –
the season where my husband tends his grapevine,
runs the newest tendrils through the fingers
of one hand and holds his pruning sheers
within the other. Green is everywhere –
the canopy, the stems, the tiny buds,
but most of all, the leaves, the size of palms
and fingers reaching out in offering.

These rustling limbs are shelter for the weary:
ladybugs that come like beggars, always
hungry, fireflies that need some respite
from the sun and wait for night to dawn,
to cover up their faces, set them free,
and me, who comes in curiosity.

His clippers shush the choir of kisskadees;
the thumping of a branch against the earth
resounds across the yard and takes my breath.

How is it that I only see the death
in this, can’t understand the simple fact
that life must river from dismembered limbs
in order to enjoy the summer’s fruits?
He snaps the branches to a naked trunk,
a lifeless shell of what it used to be.

It’s what you have to do, he says, once done,
and turns the garden hose on when I ask,
If you want this water turned to wine.

by Katie Hoerth, from Goddess Wears Cowboy Boots.

Editor’s Note: Sometimes you read a poem, and for some inexplicable reason, it sounds as smooth as sweet wine. You read it again. Again. Finally, it dawns on you—this poem is blank verse (iambic pentameter: one of my favorite devices.)