Familiar

By Katherine M. Gotthardt

Last night I dreamt again you appeared,
thin and limping after what I could have sworn
was your final parting, last heavy sigh and whimper,
all of us laying hands on your haunches, private room  
with wordless music, pet pictures, candles. And as always 

when you revisit, you had been in a different place, 
unknown basement or city I’d never visited, deliberately
hiding where you knew I could never find you,
only to hobble back to me, sad and crusty-eyed 
among sidewalks and sewers, your once vibrant fur 
matted and thickened, undercoat hopeless 
from the grease and blood of your supposed death.

It is that same place that would never allow me 
to stroke the bridge of your nose, to hum Amazing Grace, 
or sing my own version of Edelweiss until you fell asleep, 
the way I did with my own now grown children 
when they were still just toddlers. And perhaps
that has been my biggest fear all along. Being shut 

in a world where love and I are no longer allowed to live.
Where everything that deserves the best of me
is separated by grates, cement, doors, and steel barriers 
stronger than my aging hands. Where things are hidden
among dark stairways and streetlights and hurried tires 
wail against wet pavement, drowning out the songs we sing. 

In that place, it perpetually rains, and I can no longer bring 
anyone comfort, or throw my soul in front of veil, demand
it take me instead. So I can come back again. Because, as they say, 
that isn’t the way it works. Is it? We only have one life to give?

*Familiar

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 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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