For Traci

My dear friend,
this morning at 4
I found myself
breathing into the fur of my dog’s thick neck
and thought, perhaps
I’ve been holding too tightly
to everything that lives –
everything that makes a living –
that much easier. You did

that for me daily, reminded me, heard me, eased me,
listened to my stupidity from across the clacking keyboard,
across geography, across the missing senses and sentences.

You said we were soul sisters, introverts,
spiritual doppelgangers,
justice-driven, goal-driven, to-do list driven.

From your hospital bed,
you earned a doctorate.
From your deathbed, 
you ran a nonprofit, 
shared your deep love of dogs 
and poetry and art,
working, serving, giving life, vision,

yet all that time sightless, speechless, hearingless,
and then for so long, absolutely breathless.

It was the breathlessness that took you back,
sucking you into the primordial womb.

And yet here you are with me and my dog, too early,
breathing into me, for me, 
funneling that beautiful notion
through fur and jowl and forehead, chiding me,
“Listen to the wisdom of animals.
Hear what they have to say.”

For everything, there is a time to inhale.
For everything, a time to exhale. 
And dying? It is not the opposite of living. 
It’s only a way of being.

My dear friend,
I am listening.

My dear friend,
I love you.

My dear friend,
I’ll mourn the moments we don’t have together.
But I will not mourn you.

Go now. Breathe easy for me.
Go now. Be poetry for me. 
Go into the very energy
you yourself created. 
Be what you’ve always been.
Spirit of the universe. 

-Katherine Gotthardt 

Traci Carrano Jones passed away yesterday after a long fight with multiple illnesses. She was 50 years old. Anyone who knew her knew of her powerful spirit. We talked online almost every day for years, did nonprofit work together, planned together, shared an important part of our lives with each other. Though I knew she would not live a full lifespan, I'm still processing her death, as her family is. If you can support her family, please consider doing so:  

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 co-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 a full-time writer for a government contracting company and is published in dozens of journals and anthologies. She 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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