Food Stamps and Underwear

A draft by Katherine Gotthardt

When asked about holes in my underwear,
why it’s taking up space in my drawer,
I ask instead if pink isn’t my color.
Doesn’t it detract from the mark
the elastic leaves on my waist? 

I’d rather not talk about food stamps.
The scorch of my cheeks as I counted them out.
Hands shaking because the musky lady behind me
stomped like an impatient bull, wagging her head
like she’d rather gore me. I’d prefer not

to remember handing dirty paper and plastic,
silently praying I’d added it right, that my card
wouldn’t get declined. What a horrible buzz
when you have no more money.

I’d prefer to deny lines at social services,
smiling at messy haired children,
waiting to pitch my own poverty.
Three minutes with a frazzled worker 
behind glass. No name tag. No makeup. 
No patience. My wince as I tried to explain. 

I’d prefer to disown WIC cheese and peanut butter. 
Mending secondhand socks. Sticking myself 
with the needle, so hard blood came out. 
Burning my palm while ironing patches on pants.

I’d prefer to log onto Amazon, 
just buy myself some more new clothes.
Flush with awe, overflowing with gratitude, 
because I can well afford it now.

Don’t ask me about my old underwear.
We’ll wash it. Use it for rags.

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 assigned to NSF and is published in dozens of journals and anthologies. She has authored 11 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 and Get Happier, Dammit. She uses proceeds from her books to support giving back initiatives.
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