By Katherine Gotthardt

Love sometimes requires retreating,
backing up, 
reversing the pace
that brought us into spaces
where nothing was ever comfortable,
no memory or seat we could share, 
no reserve preserved for those worst hours,
the ones torn from the unpredicted twister, 
devouring everything 
we believe we had built, 
only to discover 
it was sand.  

That’s when we know 
it’s time to go,
return to the shelter
of durable,
those deceptively thin walls,
hardened by the elements, 
tightly woven rooftop
impermeable to hail.

That open door looks smaller now,
archway lower than we recall,
but inside is all that matters.
Step in and close to the fire tended.
Note the shelves,
the simple stock 
of everything really needed,
and the uncanny feeling 
that still, we are recognizable.

Come, pull a bamboo chair
up to the makeshift table.
Tell the air of ages past 
how transition always hurts,
lines blurring between coming and going,
moving forward and backward,
without distinction, without definition. 
Lay your head 
on your arms,
and rock yourself into soothing.
Wrap yourself in silence.
Embrace everything that is empty.  

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 was a past-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." Katherine was recognized as a PW Perspective 2021 DMV Best Business award winner in the category of author. In April 2023, Katherine’s poem “Now Entering Manassas” was the winner of Manassas, Virginia's adult “time capsule” poetry contest. Katherine read her poem at the 150th anniversary celebration, the translated version by Jorge de Villasante was read in Spanish by Bianca Menendez, her poem was published in Neighbors of Historic Manassas magazine, and it was included in the city’s time capsule. While Katherine is well-known for her poetry, she also has established a solid reputation for writing articles, columns and short fiction. She is published in dozens of journals and anthologies and has authored 12 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, D.C. Ekphrastic: Crisis of Faith, Thirty Years of Cardinals Calling, Get Happier, Dammit and We All Might Be Witches. She uses proceeds from her books to support giving back initiatives.
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