Katherine Hoerth

Eve, Banished, Sunbathes

Today, I let my body drown in sunshine;
all morning and all afternoon it filled
every crevice of my body, nostrils,
mouth agape, the helix of my ear.

I'm trying to appreciate the small
things now—the rays, streaming through
the clouds reminding me of everything
I've lost, the serenades of Mourning Doves
that will soon silence as the season fades,
the cool shade of a passing puff of cloud,
the aftertaste of Eden on my tongue,
even the hints of pain, the tender aches,
the body's slow unraveling with time.

The sun knows to be gentle, takes her time
darkening my skin as hours pass
from gardenia to Padre sand
to acorn hued. The darkening comes slow,
unstoppable. The sun above me reddens.
It won't be long. My sunglasses slip off.

Sal del Ray

Genesis 19:26—
"But Lot's wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt."

A kingsnake glides across her path, an omen,
filling her heart with curiosity
and fear. The monte rustles with her coming
as she meanders through a different Eden
crowned by stalwart thickets of mesquite,
guarded by sentinels of prickly pear,
a mote of shimmering sun. She traipses off
the beaten path to face the wall of thorns,
the wall of noonday sun, the wall within
that's built of everything she's taught of beauty
and of danger, comes across a refuge
for the curlews, javalina hoofprints
in the mud, a chachalaca cooing
a joyous canticle to paradise,
this wilderness of milkweed and agave.

The monte lifts its veil as she arrives—
a lake so still it looks like a mirage.
She stumbles through the landscape where the muck
gleams underneath a covering like ice
in the middle of this hellish summer.
She hears the crack of crystal underneath
her naked feet and lets the water swallow
her ankles as it seeps into her skin.

As she leaves, she can't resist a glance
over her shoulder at the magic lake
she'll leave behind and never see again.
It cracks her lips. It crystalizes flesh
until she glimmers underneath the sun.

Upon Receiving Bad News

I bit into this knowledge like an apple,
sour and dry. I want to spit it out;
the flavor spoils everything I taste.

I can't return to seeing my own flesh
as a garden that replenishes
itself—the dandelions overtaking
patches of emptiness, the gladiolas
sprouting up from dormant roots in spring,
the ruby-throated hummers swooping in
to take the place of fleeing monarchs, sipping
leftover nectar from the summer flowers,
believing my legs are trees, sequoia thighs,
evergreen ankles, redwood calves, and thinking
my breath is wind that rustles everything
heaving in spring and gentle in the fall,
hurricanes when pissed, but always present,
sweeping away the tumbleweeds and humus
to make room for something new to thrive.

I want my flesh to be eternal. Tell
me stories, myths or lies that I belong.

This bad news bruised me, stained my lips
that drip now with the sour tang of life.

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 boundary,
this scar defines the woman I am now.


Katherine Hoerth is the author of three poetry collections: The Garden Uprooted (Slough Press, 2012), Goddess Wears Cowboy Boots (Lamar University Literary Press, 2014) which won the Helen C. Smith Award for the best book of poetry in Texas, and The Lost Chronicles of Slue Foot Sue (Angelina River Press, 2018). In 2017, she joined the English faculty at Lamar University as an assistant professor and editor-in-chief of Lamar University Literary Press. She is a member of the Texas Institute of Letters and lives in Beaumont. Her website is www.katherinehoerth.com


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The most recent addition to The Mezzo Cammin Women Poets Timeline is Phillis Wheatley by Kathryn Voorhees.

Kathleen McClung is the recipient of the 2019 Mezzo Cammin Scholarship to the Poetry by the Sea conference.

Megan Marlatt:Looking like large puppet heads, it was "anima", the root of "animation", that led me to the making of the big heads, (or "capgrossos" as they are called in Catalonia where I learned the craft.) Anima is the soul or what breathes life into a being and to animate an inanimate object, an artist must insert a little soul into it. However to bring attention to what is invisible, (the soul), I chose to mold its opposite in solid form: the persona, the ego, the big head, the mask. Nearly every culture across the globe has masks. They allow performers to climb into the skin of another being and witness the other's world from behind their eyes. While doing so, the mask erases all clues of the performer's age, gender, species or race. In this regard, I find them to be the most transformative and empathic of all human artifacts.

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