I Have Learned to Name the Ghosts

In deference to Freddie Mercury and Queen 

I have learned to name the ghosts.
Let’s call this one Freddie—
no particular reason or relation
to Freddie Mercury, though I do love
a good Queen, especially
when nothing really matters,
and fandangoing now and then,
hair wild as the sun and just as spiky
at the edges, has its advantages over
having to play nice and quiet. I am
not one to take up an instrument,
pick the bones of an old guitar, nor can I
hit the high notes anymore—
that was a me that died a long time ago.
But when I need to turn champion,
having paid my dues again and again,
that’s when the spirit takes over,
the way I pretended, as a child,
I had been born a boy instead, told my mother
to chop off my hair, not because I didn’t want
to be pretty, but because I didn’t want
anyone to pull it repeatedly, and if some kid
really did like me, they better buy me flowers
as opposed to hitting me on the playground.
Because if you think that is normal,
if you still believe “they’re just mean to you
because they have a thing for you”
is okay, then you are part of the problem,
and don’t be surprised when your daughters
decide enough is enough, that they themselves
are enough, and they don’t need some version
of the past sneaking up in the dead of night
to validate their anger. The present is plenty
reason to go back to the score, the haunting
of music that reminds us we have committed
no crime, that the only infraction we made
was being who we are at this very moment,
and you can’t jail someone for wanting to win
occasionally. We don’t have to carry a gun
or be the impoverished, unloved ones—
even the demons have decided to take
to the stand this time. Even they are saying
we are right. We deserve better than this.

Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt, copyright May 27, 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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