Katie Hartsock

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FLASHES IN ALL DIRECTIONS
 
 
Who is responsible  
for the terrible times I’ve laughed — 
when someone else’s child  
 
fell from a chair at my table, when I learned  
about the faultless boy Life-Flighted off the football field 
or what nuclear fission  
 
can do? When I parked  
by a wood I’d never walked before 
and I saw the fence binding 
 
its twenty acres, and its unlocked turnstiles — one entry,  
one exit — radiating bars eight feet high,  
and its rows of barb wire  
 
above the fencing, tilted in — not to keep any climbers 
out of, but to keep them inside, 
this FENCED NATURE AREA,  
 
as the signage read — I laughed and pushed my way 
in. The pearlescent light of a low winter sun getting 
lower  made the chain-link glint 
 
and trees stood spray-painted with the usual 
suspects of hearts, PEACE, a penis, initials, 
pluses. One trunk said, I SEE YOU, 
 
a forest spirit turned panopticon, like the fiery sword 
that flashes in all directions  
outside the garden needing guarded since the day 
 
God went for a walk in his woods  
and found a man and a woman trying to hide  
everything, and asked them 
 
my favorite question God ever asked:  
“Who told you that you were naked?” 
It always makes me laugh.
 

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ELSA IN THE MAW
 
 
after Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade 
 
 
An otherworldly goldleaf light 
that sparks uncanny thirst 
still saturates the Grail when she 
takes hold of it and starts 
 
to run. Which opens up the earth 
that will give her one more chance, 
knowing, it seems, by the slant of its chasms, 
she’ll fail and fall within.  
 
When Indiana says Give me 
your other hand, honey,  
I can’t hold you he’s trying to say 
he believes she can be saved.  
 
He thinks. He’s actually not sure.  
The last time I went to Mass 
I went alone and pregnant and the priest  
stopped by my side on his way 
 
down the aisle, during the recessional hymn 
hardly anyone sings.  
I don’t usually see you by yourself. He patted 
my shoulder. No tears, no tears 
 
today. And I grew more enraged: 
Yes, today. Yes, tears today.  
I didn’t say it, couldn’t speak.  
It was just after the reports 
 
and everything beloved in  
my church looked criminal, 
complicit in the sins, even 
being there. And what  
 
could be sufficient, what can save  
it from itself, as is? 
Somewhere Elsa’s body is buried 
in Lucasfilm dry ice,  
 
and that chalice down there with her, if 
we imagine past the end,  
inside the hellishness that hangs  
around the holy places. 
 
 
THE MOTHER’S STOMACH, A KIND OF TREE
 
 
that grew with such an unchecked reach it looks
like a wolf about to leap, on prey or pups
ventured from the den too soon. Each branch a crux
becoming other crosses, knots, nooks, bulges
of elbow ache or pilonidal clefts.
Its bark still wants to stretch towards every claw
or wing or mandible that left its nests,
and its limbs paunchy all year with autumn. 
And when it lies on its side in bed, what a face
it makes! When she breathes, it breathes too. Of those
who loved this body when it was uncut paper,
she thinks of you. Of some scenario: 
your torso back with hers, nervous to move. 
You fill your hands and call it beautiful.