©2019 Pericles at Play. Homepage paintings by Annabel Dover

Musculature

By Katie Hartsock

That’s beautiful, my endo said,

examining my graph
of glucose levels on a day
I never went above 

 

one-forty, or below eighty-five:

a more or less straight line
in a report which often reminds

us diabetics, and 

 

our doctors, of a roller coaster
with hills and dips of high
and low blood sugars. But this horizon

was my sculpture, made 

 

intently as a tricky drive
where many turns are missed,

made intensely as love with one

you will not see again, 

 

in a body that would have perished years

ago, if not for the invention
of artificial insulin.
Arte factus, “made 

 

with skill.” If I could reproduce

such minimalist lines
every day, I’d never die.
Call it curated. Call 

 

it radical. Call its excess

Whitmanian, this blood
sugar of mine, that loafs at its ease

and sometimes in largesse.

 

I saw a colossal statue once,
the Farnese Hercules,
and stood eye-level to his quads.

He held behind his back 

 

the apple he tricked his way into winning,

like I trick my way into living.
It’s all a little Sisyphean.
His apple must return 

 

to the garden; always I’m measuring

another dose, hoping
it’s right, just like my pancreas

would do if it could again— 

 

an enchanted tree welcoming home

a plucked-off piece of fruit,

regrowing the stem into its branch

so even the sepals shone 

 

golden as an evening nymph.

I heard our hired guide,
a Ray-Banned Neapolitan,

explain the hero’s muscles 

 

are so exaggerated here
he couldn’t walk if he came

alive; his body wouldn’t work

one labor, lift a feather, 

 

would just collapse into a pile
of useless hunkitude.
What if my touch, auto-immune,

could whittle him human: 

 

file down biceps, inflate the furrows,

flat as a prophet envisioned
the world—every valley shall be
filled in, every mountain
 

 

and hill made low. As if we would
be good, all good, remade
to live smooth as that landscape, where

I’d never want to walk. 

Image: 

Max Ernst ( 1891-1976)

Garden of the Hesperides

1934

Oil on canvas