Katherine Hoerth – Five Poems
Love In All Seasons
For Sara and Rodney
Everybody falls in love in spring.
It’s easy with the pollen in the air,
sun peeking through the slate clouds, shy or coy
at first, a smile held back, about to burst
into radiance. The naïve come
eager to work their clean hands through the soil.
Your garden gloves are stiff, a price tag dangles
from your sunhat. You tuck the tiny seeds
into the earth and water, wait, then dump
Miracle Grow, although the earth’s already
wet with dew and love. The first bud opens
its petals, slips into the lips of March.
The world is different now. The flowers bloom
in every corner of your lovesick mind.
In summer, there is more of everything.
You feast on what the season has to offer –
the sun’s embarrassment of riches streaming
down to feed the flowers, large as grinning
faces, already drunk on their own nectar,
tropical rainstorms tumbling ashore
to wet the fertile, sodden soil, the days
that almost seem to never end. You spend
them in your garden, clipping, digging, planting.
Your garden drinks you in, the sweat that rivers
down your back, the soft touch of your hands
the dirt beneath your fingernails. For love,
you toil with a smile as bright as June
dreaming of those cool and humid nights.
Her love in autumn’s just as beautiful –
it enters with a sigh of satisfaction
at the heavy, heaving branches filled with fruit
that you produced together hand in hand.
You stop to pluck one, hold the blazing fire
of an orange in your calloused palm,
a star that’s made of life, of sweat, of love,
of everything the two of you can offer.
You peel it, let the flesh dissolve into
your tongue, and taste the sweetness of tomorrow.
You’ll savor this together underneath
October’s sky that rumbles, warns the world
of what’s to come. Breathe deep, take in the smell
of fallen leaves returning to the earth.
The few who love in winter know a love
that’s deeper. Every petal’s fallen; fruit
has been devoured, savored. Branches hang,
naked, brittle, but you come to listen
to the beauty of them rustling in the wind.
You wander through the garden, tend the hollies
with gentle streams of water. Now, you run
your fingers through the soil because you’ve grown
accustomed to the smell of earth on skin.
She’s nothing left to offer but herself.
This is what it means to be in love —
cherishing each other through the seasons,
flourishing together hand in hand,
loving simply for the sake of love.
Helen Finds a White Hair
Another spring greets Helen as she blooms
as beautiful as ever at her window.
She unties her braid. The sun breaks through,
illuminates her iridescent strands
that sheen like feathers of a hummingbird.
Today, the breeze is thick with citrus blossoms;
the endless sky above is blue and vast.
Helen sighs. She’s seen it all, what spring
becomes, this time of beauty, wriggling free
from winter’s icy fingers, summer’s heat
nipping at its heels as it runs.
She knows as soon as spring begins, it ends.
Helen runs her fingers through her hair;
a couple strands come loose. They catch the sunlight,
bold and golden like a daffodil
whose scent attracts the bees that come with stingers,
pollen drunk and desperate for a taste,
whose hue calls out to hummingbirds that fence
each other for the nectar that it holds
tight inside its whorl, whose beauty brings
the boys who come to pluck them from the ground –
all this chaos stemming from a flower.
She throws them one by one into the wind —
leave such beauty to the birds, she ponders
to herself and shakes her lovely head.
A single strand is white instead of gold.
Her stomach drops. She thinks of all years
of golden hair behind her, all the years
of gray ahead. A sudden smile blooms —
she wonders if the daffodils rejoice
as their petals fade from gold to brown,
as each one falls to earth when spring is over,
how they ease into the quietness
and fall into the slumber December,
the meadow filling up with peaceful snow
and turning alabaster like her hair.
A Construction Site in Spring
This story’s almost a cliché – the air
thickens with sun, the distant scent of rain,
the desperation in the mating songs
of mockingbirds. Construction workers lunch,
perched atop a liquor store and fill
the world with scents of tar and sweat, the boom
of laughter and their presence. You, a woman,
cross into their gaze, a slit of sunray
streams between two clouds of indigo.
You’re suddenly aware of your reflection
in the fingerprinted window – skin
is rusk and smooth, your hair is rustling,
wild, wavy, snarled and iridescent.
Your gypsy skirt is dancing at your ankles.
Your body braces for the imminent
call of spring, that bittersweet reminder
of your place within this world, the natural
order — construction workers, made to catcall
from above like bumble bees were made
to visit buds of lavender, like mice
were made to snugly fit inside the maw
of a cat, like lovely mortals made
to fill the lust of gods from thrones of clouds.
You hurry past, eyes on your feet, the cracks
in the cement, the red ants marching off,
carrying bits of green. You’re met with silence –
not even a whistle. Your heart sinks
as you look up at the men, their legs
dangle from the roof’s lip as they chat,
their eyes fixated on the pile of shingles,
dizzying swathes of sky, the brilliance
of life that pirouettes around you all.
One notices you staring, waves as though
you’re just another human being. You chuckle,
shake your head, walk on your merry way,
wondering if perhaps you’re getting old.
The Geography of Eden
I am the fertile valley to his mountain –
he stands above me, snowcapped, cold and rugged,
lets the mud of everything slide down.
He buries me in silt; I cradle daisies.
I am the planet to his sky, he wraps
clouds around this curvature of earth.
I gaze into him, see infinity,
feel small and insignificant like dust
as I orbit through this great expanse
of black. I am the wilderness, my open
mouth a jungle, dark and deep. His tongue,
civilization, cultivates a garden
with each kiss, macheteing the brush.
His flesh came first; mine filled the gaps. Alone,
my body crumbles underneath the weight
of all the tangled overgrowth, of being.
I am the midnight to his sunny noon.
I am the Gala apple of his eye.
Her name was Black-eyed Susan, like the flower
growing numerous across the prairies.
Lovely and delicate, they grow to be
admired, spread their seeds, then fade away
into the muted backdrop of this landscape.
But Sue was nothing like a flower, fragile,
silent, still. Her lips weren’t two soft petals
waiting like wine cups to be filled and sipped
from, fragrant, blush and slick. Her hair was never
neat like ringlets of huisache blossoms,
gold and swaying in the gentle breeze.
Her eyes, two flickering stars, were always searching
the horizon for the next adventure.
Her calloused palms, her arms, her sunburnt nape
didn’t glimmer underneath the moonlight
ashen like clusters of Madrone blooms.
Fancying herself more honeybee
than wildflower, Sue would buzz through spring,
imagining her two slue feet, her legs
could carry her away like paper wings
into an ocean filled with Texas sky,
no roots to hold her firmly in the ground.
Author’s Statement on Beauty
Beauty has become something we’ve defined as feminine, and to say it’s simply frivolous is to dismiss the feminine as somehow not important. And plus, the world is full of beauty, and as human beings, regardless of gender, we’re a part of that world, so why not celebrate the beauty of who and what we are?
Society tells us beauty is X – a certain dress size, a certain skin tone, a certain brand of handbag that costs way more than most can afford. But that’s just one set of tastes that we’ve allowed to become a cultural aesthetic. For me, beauty is looking out my window and finding the harmony of the world. It’s staring into my love’s eyes as my mind floods with memories of our past, our dreams of the future. It’s gazing into the mirror at my own face and finding joy. We have to explore, redefine, and reclaim beauty for ourselves. And that’s precisely why Peacock is such an important, timely, and dare I say, beautiful project.
Katherine Hoerth is the author of four poetry books. Her most recent poetry collection, Goddess Wears Cowboy Boots (Lamar University Literary Press, 2014) won the Helen C. Smith Prize from the Texas Institute of Letters. Her work has been included in journals such as Mezzo Cammin, Raintown Review, and Think Journal. She teaches at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and is the 2017 Langdon Writer in Residence. Katherine lives in deep south Texas.