This One, Too, is for Traci

I did not know what I would write this morning as the treeline
got etched in wisps of ivory blond—until I remembered 
I did not get to properly grieve you. Not really, anyway. Sure, 
I wrote you a poem. Sure, I teared up now and again, like I am 
now when I think of everything you did and offered, but mostly, 
selfishly, I miss your listening, that nonjudgmental smile I saw
clearly across the keyboard even when your face, bright as high 
noon, was hardly ever in my view. That day I said you were glowing, 
hair like a river of thinly sliced amulets, fine and white-gold, 
and you had done your face with makeup I’d sent you. That’s how 

I see you in my cadre of memory—not as that broken biome you had 
to fight off for too many decades, not as someone who needed food 
pantries or subsidies, or someone who couldn’t afford their own home.
Not with the blindness you learned to work around with grace and wile, 
or as our too-early conversations, but as what we said across the screen 
when neither of us could sleep because we both were having pain,
and hurting was something we couldn’t stay in bed with. And I barely
know what I am saying now because I can’t see my own keystrokes, 

and I was always one who made a lot of typos, never having been 
able to put my fingers in the right places. But if anyone is reading, 
if anyone cares enough to listen, if anyone cares about something 
different than just a friendship, I want them to know that sometimes, 
what we need is someone who has shuffled along in life in our own 
bodies, someone who knows what it is to be threadbare and hopeless, 
crying because it is all too, too much, but also, that we do not succumb. 
In fact, it sometimes means we need to make new clothes, or perhaps 

share our old ones so someone else feels new, help them wear those
awkward hems and hand-me-downs with as much pride, as much
dignity, as anyone who shops Manhattan—because you, my friend, 
my peer, held far more value than any gourmet haberdasher, and what 
you gave me, I could not repay in cheap trinkets or tote bags or anything
else I could afford. But I’m glad I helped you feel treasured. I’m glad 
you believed I had something worthwhile, that I helped you feel golden 
and beautiful—even if nothing gold can ever stay. You stayed. You stayed.

Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt, copyright March 25, 2024, all rights reserved 

Traci served as a mental health Peer Recovery Specialist. She loved animals and believed in their healing power. We chatted online nearly every day for years. She was my friend, but she was more than that. Her strength, determination, endurance and tenacity were something to experience. I still miss her, the way she inspired me to be my best self, the way she understood my brain (which is not easy). Love you, Traci. I see you in the sun. 

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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