“Houston Is the Body” by Jennifer Hartenburg

Jennifer Hartenburg


of your lover found flipped
in a car on the side
of the freeway. You weren’t
there when it happened. You
were at home sheltering
from the storm, sheltering
at your breast the child who
is also Houston. Shhh.
Shhh. Shhh. Shhh. In your dreams
you are Houston watching
rain water pool ’round your
ankles. Paralysis
of sleep has bound you. There
is nowhere to go. You
wake shaking to the sounds
of your child crying.
You offer her your breast.
She will not latch. Her tears
now pool thick around your
doorways. Paralysis
of grief overtakes you.
They have taken your limp
lover to hospital.
You fear the worst. You dream
your bed a raft afloat,
a dinghy bobbing on
roads turned into rivers.
You peer over the edge
and see the face, the eyes
of your lover looking
back from the depths. You do
not wake because it is
not a dream. The phone rings.
It is your lover who
calls from the hospital:
“Get a pen,” he says; “write
this down: Houston is not
dead.” The child is sleeping,
a strand of your hair clenched
tight in her strong, fierce fist.

from Poets Respond
September 3, 2017


Jennifer Hartenburg: “I live in the greater Houston area and have been heartbroken watching Harvey ravage our communities along the Texas coast. So many have been displaced and have lost all they own. But they have not lost their courage, their hope, or their love. In spite of the heartbreak, countless acts of heroism are happening here every day.” (web)

Rattle Logo