I Used to be a Cheerleader

I used to be a cheerleader. I know.
I can hardly believe it myself.
But how far I could throw my voice
when there was something deserving
to encourage, something young
and striving and worth putting
my lungs into, hollering not just
from the larynx, but from the gut
and chest, all my power behind
what needed to be said louder
at the time. And I was tall and big

for my age, the base of the pyramid,
helping to hold up the smaller ones,
the ones I used to wish I could be,
until, not too long after, I understood
they had the sadder stories, those kinds
of lives no one would have wanted
for themselves—for anyone, really.
So it is here I find myself, here I start

thinking about breathing again,
writing from the bottom, the origins,
wherever these reminders come from
that I used to know how to be more
audible, that what came from my tongue
was exactly what I wanted at that moment,
and if I keep inhaling deeply, exhaling

my elocution, enunciate the syllables
over and over, bringing up from the diaphragm
whatever is important, whatever needs
to make it over the din—even if
what I am shouting for seems to be at a loss,
I will cheer until everyone has been heard.
Until my throat is raw with the words.
Until the clock runs out.

Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt, copyright May 29, 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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