Aftermath

 3:37 a.m. 
 I listen for helicopters,
 for some staccato pop,
 if not, then something banal 
 I can count to get back to sleep,
 perhaps the seconds between
 what the clock says,
 what the newsman says,
 what my mother would say: “Pray.” 
  
 3:39 a.m.
 Horrible as it sounds, 
 I’m thankful she did not live 
 to see all that died this day.
 Her anxiety would have multiplied,
 packed itself tightly against her chest,
 pressed the crucifix closer to her skin.
 Would she have added more icons 
 to that thin silver chain?
 I try to count my blessings. 
  
 3:42 a.m.
 I find myself listening for shouting,
 some unusual sound, other 
 than profound replays of chaos,
 democracy gone wrong:
 the steel barricade widening,
 well-oiled gunmen sliding through police,
 the breach of the Capitol walls,
 climbing the sides of law and order. 
 I count up slowly, inhale, cry,
 start to ask my mother why. 
  
 3:44 a.m.
 I divide the seconds,
 breaking down statements of what we know:
 hot mob, conspiracy spread like incense, 
 tatted man in horns, no shirt, fur pelt, 
 Confederate flag claiming the mosaic floor.
 Not your average person inciting insurrection. 
 “A nutty,” she’d have called him. 
 Certainly not someone
 counting on sleeping that night.
  
 3:49 a.m.
 I ask myself if anxiety is inherited,
 if a weighted blanket would help.
 Not that it matters when 
 a whole praying world leans in, 
 heads tilted, listening as I am,
 for the sound of everything ending. 
 Some are counting on it.
  
 3:52 a.m.
 I decide it’s time I get up,
 calculate how to cope,
 ask my mother to find the solution,
 don my best jewelry and wristwatch.
 Let’s set an alarm, shall we?
 Do something a little different,
 this time, count down until dawn. 
 Keep eyes out the living room window, 
 watch sunrise stretch its arms. 
 Watch for horizon again.  
   
-Katherine Gotthardt

Thank you to the Poetry Society of Virginia for recognizing this poem. Written in memory of my beloved mother, my entry “Aftermath” won second place in the nationwide Anne Spencer Memorial competition. The theme was “overcoming adversity.” I wrote this piece the day after the attack on the Capitol. May we always overcome, and may we never forget the fragility of peace.

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 County 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 and a regional Seefeldt Award for Arts Excellence from the Prince William County Arts Council. 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, Get Happy, Dammit and D.C. Ekphrastic: Crisis of Faith.
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