Remote Work

By Katherine Gotthardt

Somewhere in the midst of life’s lessons,
I’m forgetting how to speak.
I think it might be the COVID solitude,
demanding silence and order and discipline,
the daily tidying of a cluttered workspace
I don’t want anyone to see.
Or maybe it’s approaching winter, 
early morning frost telling us all to hush.
Or it could be the intricate lacing 
of human beings gone lonely,
so much so, we forget how to understand.
Language breaks apart 
into the nearly obsolete,
silent desperation clicking keyboards, 
tapping screens, substituting itself 
for communication.
Take another sip of too-hot coffee
and answer that nipping email,
but thank God it’s not 
another video meeting.
It’s not that they seem useless.
We just don’t want to face the camera,
log in to these other people,
see ourselves avoid their eyes,
have to watch them watch us 
while we muddle through 
what passes for sharing

It’s worse in the office when we do go in,
all of us defaulted to mute,
tentatively taking ourselves off,
turning hot and pink, perspiring 
in the awkward stutter 
of chipped conversation.
Then suddenly we talk over each other,
streaming words for dear life.
The inappropriateness of it all
piles in the center 
of the conference room table,
complaints placed strategically atop gossip,
strange craft practiced in loneliness. 
No one knew 
how much we’d depend on one another 
for such a seemingly simple function,
verbal command of words
having become a luxury.
No one knew 
people tangled in frustration
would turn into a lifeline,
knotting themselves at the end 
of a thin cord,
all of us strung like glass beads,
feet atop hands and heads,
hoping the braid will hold. 
We wonder when someone
will say the wrong thing,
and everyone else will slip and shatter.
They ask me what I’m thinking.
I answer, “All is well.”

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. Katherine 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. Her poetry and prose book Get Happy, Dammit: Staying Inspired and Motivated in an Often-Unhappy World received a Silver Award from the Nonfiction Authors Association. Katherine's children’s book, A Crane Named Steve, hit number one in its category on Amazon in 2019. Katherine then 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 Katherine earned second place for "Aftermath" in a Poetry Society of Virginia national contest and the regional Seefeldt Award for Arts Excellence in the category of Individual Artist. She won first place in the Virginia Writers Club statewide Golden Nib contest in the poetry category for her poem "Kayak." 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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