I'm thinking of those who blister
beneath bland words,
boil at banal exposure 
to something so simple,
so downright alkaline,
the rest of the world
wonders what's wrong.

It wasn't like I demanded
how dare you be at the desk, 
asking directions to your room,
as if you were inconspicuous.
Called you a pig,
or maligned your name 
in some burst tongue, 
taking your identity in vain. 
It wasn't like I stared
at your shit-stained sleeve,
or noted that gravely sound  
bubbling from your throat.
Far be it for me to judge
whether you drink or smoke
or just get congested from life.
No, all I said was hello.
Yet how you stared at me,
like I was daughter of the devil,
singed at the edges, smokey smelling,
edging too close to your truth.

I wonder what you'll do 
when it's my turn to get a key. 
I wonder what you'll do 
when you hear my own story.
I wonder what more's behind yours.
Go ahead. 
Ask the question. 

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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