Opus Number Something – On Gratitude

I was this many years old when I learned what an opus number
means, how chronological order is not always set by composers,
but by scholars, historians, and academics. And having looked 
up the word, as I am wont to do, having taken the head-first swan 
dive into another high tide, I recognize, while my biography intersects 
with that ocean of wisdom and tome (and an absurd amount of hubris)—

sand-blasted, decoupaged, in pages of small print and rhetoric, 
shellacked, another tabula rasa mind eager to seal it all in early 
enough to still remember when later, it is needed most—I admit 
to having caused a bit of (good?) trouble in my adult years, and like
all great and terrible figures of yore, some of whom I read about, 
managed to get thrown out of a college. And yes, that brought with it

unneeded suffering, and yes, I still wear those heavy-hearted cover-ups,
gauze and white and lacy, and while a bit warmer and prettier, are not very
cozy. But I do have my favorite purple slippers, the ones with the waves 
and planets, shaped like little surfboards, ridiculous looking, cheap, big,
but lovely in their own eccentricity—and plus, they do the job. And when 
I finally settle down to read the modern thinkers, or reexamine the classics, 

I am cognizant that with only one tremendously bad and possible exception, 
I got what I sought from education—not the equivalent of paying the bills 
(that would have been nice, too)—but the introduction to a more eclectic 
way of living, a hunting and gathering of sorts, a beach combing of filling  
steel buckets with beloved poets, philosophers, peacemakers, and rebels.  
And while I can no longer get through a book of Plato or Nietzsche, Achebe, 

Thoreau or Morrison, Baldwin or Angelou or Tan, I can still read them
in excerpts, the way I do my lifetime, grateful to my deepest graduate 
core, that I was gifted with what it took my own teachers decades 
to learn, and that kind of offering can never be replaced—should not be 
replaced—by any trinket or trifle or designer anything. Because it is 
within the most ebony hours, the ones before dawn’s “rosy fingers” reach
for morning sky, those minutes before the alarm rings, or a demanding 

dog or newborn reminds you it is time again to eat, that we need those 
things that are smarter, softer, kinder but firm, things that yield to touch 
without inevitably dissolving, something we can hug closely to our bodies.  
And that is what I am thankful for now, why I write this opus of gratitude,
and number it something or other. That is why I am living a poem, instead 
of another catastrophe: I have cuddled up to the old and familiar, invited 
the new creative, accepted what they can impart, replacing code and betrayal
with symbol and metaphor and imagery, and magically, have not disappeared. 

Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt, copyright March 28, 2024, all rights reserved

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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