Katie Hartsock

Studies in Devotion

He reaches for my insulin pump, the size
of a strawberry under my sleeve. He thinks it’s me,

the programmed opaque reservoir that feeds
my blood in drips. Expecting it to yield
like skin to his touch, he outlines the hard edges
until enough is known, for now. We shift
into the pose of mother and slippery child

in Raphael’s Madonna di Foligno,
the painting a doctor prescribed to me. Not for

Jerome or his lion, not for Francis’ hands
like winter branches singing to faraway shapes,
not for John the Baptist, his Rod Stewart hair

and wiry biceps, and not for the woman
or the babe who squirms to sail out of her arms;
my doctor—she was very good—directed
my gaze to the children’s faces surrounding Mary.

They have become the clouds they float inside:
some look at her and some look at each other,
some have been reading James Wright and cup
their sister’s cheeks. They ripple tensely, they
can hardly contain their happiness

prefer Leonard Cohen. They are leaning out
for love and they will lean that way forever.

Look at them for a long time a little each day,
my doctor instructed, and I did, holding

a screen in my lap in a Chicago flat. The man
who commissioned the work kneels below them, caped
in fur-lined red. Something fiery fell from the sky

and into his house, but he lived. Paint me alone
among the saints, paint me in my gratitude.

This happened years ago. On earth they gather
around the ground torn open by the disaster,
a womb of nothingness that filled, healed shut,
and now these green and yellow tufts grow there
as if their seeds were beaten alive by a plough.

And in the middle, across his messenger’s chest,
a cherub holds a blank bronze plaque, still waiting
for its words, the way the uninscribed can wait.

The Vagabonds Between Us

Years before he’d call us, frantic,
needing cash, the meth vibration
deep in his voice’s tracks, its empty
open box cars rolling down the line,

he would sit next to my mother,
not my mother yet, on Sundays
in the old church. Once, instead of
the recessional hymn, he started

singing “Band on the Run,” and she joined in.
Most hours and days will never
come again—the congregation
felt that morning’s secret ache for them.


Katie Hartsock is the author of Bed of Impatiens (Able Muse, 2016). Her poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in journals such as Threepenny Review, 32 Poems, Kenyon Review, Ecotone, New Criterion, Birmingham Poetry Review, Nimrod, Beloit Poetry Journal, and elsewhere. She teaches at Oakland University in Michigan, where she lives with her husband and two young sons. Her second collection, Wolf Trees, will be published in 2022 by Able Muse Press.


Kris Beaver
Catherine Chandler
Mary Cresswell
Catherine Fitzpatrick
Nicole Caruso Garcia
Katie Hartsock
Jean L. Kreiling
Diane Lee Moomey
T. R. Poulson
Catherine Esposito Prescott
Carolyn Raphael
Claudia Schatz
Leslie Schultz


The Poetry by the Sea Spring Celebration is available for viewing on Youtube as a permanent memorial and tribute to Mezzo Cammin's founder, Dr. Kim Bridgford (1959-2020). Click here to watch.

The 2022 Poetry by the Sea conference will run May 24-27 2022.

My work contributes to the dialogue among feminist writers, historians, critics, and artists to define a space for creative work and agency for women. Through my figurative paintings, I challenge notions about the female body, redefine myths, and recover the lives of historical women. I draw upon my knowledge of art history, symbolism, and iconography to create rich stories about the women I paint. By projecting my own likeness into many of the portraits I create or by using models, I identify with the women I paint and explore my own sense of being an artist and woman in relation to accomplished women across centuries and cultures.

Here we see the pages from my newest artist book, I Wake Again, based on the life of Pre-Raphaelite artist and poet, Elizabeth Siddal. The poems are written by Kim Bridgford, who was a dear friend for 30 plus years. The pages are printed in lithography and the initial letter of each poem is done in silkscreen. The font of the poems is Morris Font. The ink color is graphite. I have reimagined key moments in Elizabeth’s life, such as her birth, her writing poetry, reading, painting, and her death. Each book contains red hair and has been bound by Maureen Cummins.

32 Poems
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