Eating Disorder

Upon finding an old cemetery 

Some of these
stones are small
and unmarked—
it must have been
a family plot—yet
I don’t know where
the story comes from,
where it started,
whether with water,
or fire, or steam
that splashed
her in the face when
she ran the faucet
over the mouth
of a frying pan.

Homemade sausage
and onion. Dinner
for a household
of eight. And before
it even began, before
anyone could lift
fork to teeth, one
of the youngest
cries he does not
like onions—
they burn his tongue,
and his tummy hurts
after he eats them.
They make him
feel all kinds of ways
sick children describe
better than this,
and then, I think,
the father—

he must have turned
hot in the face,
pounded a thick fist
on the table planks,
threatened to take out
the belt, send the child
to the woodshed. So
in the story, the mother

tells the boy to pick
the onions out,
put them on a napkin
and she will eat them
instead, because wasting
is selfish and sinful,
and how many people
in a country no one
has ever heard of
would appreciate
the food they’d been given?
In ensuing silence,

she cannot speak
to the actual weakness,
tell him how everyone
is afraid to be sick,
everyone scared
of starvation
and their own
intermittent lives,
each guarding survival
in whatever method
they learn, hoping to
live beyond themselves.

She probably would have
liked to ward off
the suffering, keep it
all to herself. Protect
them and hold them.
Love them in whatever
way she could.
That’s what I think
she was doing.
Saving them from
mortality. Preventing
them from wasting away.

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