I look down, and it’s on my thigh,
just sitting there,
sucking the last bit of self from me,
and I wonder, for a second, how it lives,
all those antidepressants in my blood,
all those germs on public toilets.
What a time to get a tick, I think,
for these bumps to arise,
pushing through my skin,
rolling on up to my face.
They turn my lips into plums,
my eyes to walnuts,
cheeks some kind of
grocery store casualty –
this before the breathlessness,
the slow wheeze of memory,
you there laughing
the first time it happened,
saying I looked like a gourd.
That was before EpiPens.
That was before we knew disease.
That was before the bored tick
of the clock
counted too many hours
of us in the ER together,
and you’d grown impatient.
I wish it had happened sooner,
to be honest.
I wouldn’t have wasted
the air it took
to tell you to get it off me.
I wouldn’t have wasted
the years that followed,
those torpid years,
wheeling me into today
where toilet paper,
a tight pinch and a jab
will have to work their magic.
And I, stuck in the bathroom stall
listen in fascination
to the way the thing pops
between my fingers,
my own life in its body,
dripping back into my hands.
I wait to feel normal again.
I don’t even miss you.

Katherine Gotthardt

Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt, M.Ed., writing concentration, hails from the Northern Virginia/D.C. metro area. She considers herself a writer by nature and by trade, having begun writing for fun as soon as her mother helped teach her to read. An active part of the literary community, Katherine is current president and a founding member of Write by the Rails (WbtR), the Prince William Chapter of the Virginia Writers Club. She has been a Prince William County Poet Laureate nominee and was the winner of Inside Nova’s 2019 and 2020 Best of Prince William award in the category of author. Get Happy, Dammit: Staying Inspired and Motivated in an Often-Unhappy World received a Silver Award from the Nonfiction Authors Association. Her children’s book, A Crane Named Steve, hit number one in its category on Amazon in 2019. Katherine took first place in the free verse category of Loudoun County Library Foundation’s 2020 Rhyme On poetry contest for her piece "Discussion Topic." The Prince William Arts Council and Poet Laureate Circle awarded her the 2020 Outstanding Poetry Project Award for her leadership in Write by the Rails' Poems Around Town poetry installation. In 2021 she earned second place for "Aftermath" in a Poetry Society of Virginia national contest. While Katherine is well-known for her poetry, she also has established a solid reputation for writing articles, columns and short fiction. She is a full-time marketing writer for a government contracting company and is published in dozens of journals and anthologies. She has authored nine books: Poems from the Battlefield, Furbily-Furld Takes on the World, Approaching Felonias Park, Weaker Than Water, Bury Me Under a Lilac, Late April, A Crane Named Steve, and Get Happy, Dammit. D.C. Ekphrastic: Crisis of Faith was released in December 2020.
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