Friday, December 22, 2017

Cuss

I swear a lot more now.
I used to think poetry
wasn't the place for it,
but I'm letting go
of that fucking belief.
It "no longer serves me,"
and besides, my kids
are old enough to cuss.
No more editing myself.

You know when a kid is a little parrot?

At five years old, my daughter
rolled under the elegantly set dinner table.
We had uber-Christian guests feasting
on filet Mignon when
a random "Goddammit" erupted
from beneath the white, lace tablecloth.
"Erika! You know better!"
"But mommy, you say it all the time."
Thanks, kid.




Convention

My mom -
she died two years,
three days ago.
I'd almost forgotten,
until I looked down
at the convention schedule.
December 2. Why did that...?
Oh yeah. That's why.
And then it all made sense.

See, my mother?
The world scared her.
She spent her days
working in schools
and at Sam's Club,
nights watching Fox News,
each clip of violence, rumor or spin
following her to the classroom
where she taught inner city kids to read.
Their stories, their dad-less lives,
didn't help her any.
She brought it all to her second job,
a door greeter.
"I'm sorry. I have to check your receipt."
Once in a while, she got a hug.
Mostly she got yelled at.
But she sure had a lot of award pins
on her royal blue company vest.

So in her honor (though I could hear her:
"Kathy! You be careful!")
I put on my makeup and smile
and all that fake shit you carry
when you're at a convention you'd rather leave
and you really don't know what to do
and you're in a strange city with too many lights
and too many car horns and too many sirens
and too goddamn many people who all
know where they're going
and even if they don't,
they at least LOOK that way.
But you - you are alone wishing the person
(the only one who remotely knows you,
who at least knows you are there) would stop
wandering off because you're so very, very
afraid. But he has business to do
and can't be responsible
for your expectations.
"Go network."

Really? Easy for him to say.
He knows people here.
He speaks the language.
He talks to VPs and CEOs
and you, you don't show on his radar,
you speck of human anxiety.
But you are not one to give up, are you?

So you try talking to strangers.
One haggard woman just says she's tired.
One tall guy in his thirties
doesn't want your business card.
He asks for your cell phone number
after finding out where you're staying,
just part of casual conversation.
It wasn't an invite, dude.

The last time someone hit on you
(at least that you recognized -
you're a little duh about that in general)
was probably ten years ago,
and it was a student who rubbed your shoulders
in a college library. You told him to stop.

So you walk away from the convention guy
and sit in a corner,
text your colleague.
"Where the hell are you?
If you're not here in half an hour,
I'm going back to the hotel."
At least you can lock the doors there.

Your colleague -
he has no idea why you're mad,
can't understand what it feels like
to be so horribly alone, panicking,
damming back tears, remembering
your mom died, not realizing
to boot you're getting your period
for the third time that month,
that your stress hives are itching again
in spite of the Prednisone.
"Take the steroids," the doctor said.
"Call me if it doesn't get better."

It didn't. And that night,
the Uber didn't show
to take you back to the hotel,
and you stood on a corner in the cold
(you're a little too old for street corners)
hating his guts for leaving you,
mad at your mother for leaving you,
mad at Philadelphia for being so fucking loud.
So you call the hotel shuttle instead
and tell the driver your story.
It's odd the Uber never showed, he says.
But he hates Ubers anyway.
Too much competition.
 
Then there's a party that night
and you get a text from your colleague.
"Hey, you want to go? No?
Why don't you want to go?"

Why don't you want to go?
Why don't you want to go?!
Has he lost his mind
or have you lost yours?
You're at a loss for words.
"I'm in my pjs," is all you can say.

"Oh, okay.
I'll order you a pizza."






Saturday, January 21, 2017

Workaholic - A Draft



Workaholic

My friend said it’s a phase we go through,
thinking we need to make money
more than time for sex,
shopping or female bonding.
She’s always talking about sex.
Just like I always talk about my job.

It’s not that I would want her
to make money from sex. But I wish
she’d understand a little better
when I say I’m obsessed, that it’s not
just about the money. It’s passion.
It’s drive. Not the kind she’s talking about.

It’s the way the night seeps
into your eyes while they’re still open.
Before you know it, everything is dark,
softer for having lack of light,
seductive for having lack of boundaries,
strangely erotic. I can’t keep away

from the sound this keyboard makes,
its chunky keys lit in purple,
the erratic rhythm of my practiced
yet unschooled typing –
my fingers do what they want.
They find letters and numbers and symbols
without my having to look, though
typing teachers would have a cow.
Nothing is where it should be, they’d say.
But it’s where I want it, I say.

That’s the thing. The house
can be falling apart around me,
but I’m here in my basement office,
everything orderly, lined up
like neatly dressed schoolgirls,
wearing starched navy skirts,
uniformed black knee socks.
I don’t have to see unfolded laundry,
spilled detergent or wrinkled shirts.
I’m tucked away from chaos.

Away a lot, as a matter of fact.
Too much, if you ask my family.
They say I live in here, at this desk
that creates documents and deadlines,
files and formalities. Did you know
even my clothes are down here?

Where is my husband?
Where is my daughter?
Where is my other daughter?
What time is it?

Oh my.
I’ve done it again.

Katherine Gotthardt
Copyright 1/21/2017

Friday, November 18, 2016

Shower

I love the way you run your fingers 
through your hair, lean back 
in your chair and drink tea 
out of a Mason jar. I find
the way you can't sit still endearing,
the way you tap your pen, gesture,
talk about idiots, cussing nonchalantly.
Step it up a notch: I might even adore you. 
But please, don't use the "T" word.
You know what I mean.

"Trust" isn't something I lend
like a new book you know damn well
will never be returned. It isn't something
I save on my shelf, waiting to give away.
It's more like a person I don't want to introduce.

You could try to find and kidnap him,
but that's not how trust works. And besides,
there's no way you can catch him:

Trust wears nondescript, gray blazers,
cuts his hair short, shines his shoes,
but not enough to draw attention.
He sits quietly in a cafe, sipping a latte,
looks at a laptop screen, pretending
there's something interesting there.
He does not talk. He is a quiet observer,
an avid eavesdropper, an undercover agent.
Trust doesn't go home to the wife and kids,
nor does he have a lover.
Trust travels alone.

Do I want to shower with you?
Are you fucking kidding me?

copyright 2016
Katherine Gotthardt

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Post Election

Brave enough to admit
I've gone into hiding,
retreated to bathrobe and tissues,
like I've got a head cold.
You know when you're sick
and feel like your looking
at life through a translucent veil?

Maybe you're not really there.
Maybe you're supposed to detach
from life's thick ooze
in order to recover. Is
that what I'm doing?
I don't feel saved.

I'm afraid. See, what
I used to use as perspective
was this: be grateful.
You could be living
in a Middle Eastern country,
bombs and fire and sadness
emptying cities, souls and bellies,
the razed skeletons of buildings,
civilization gone to hell.

Clearly I'm depressed.
And for once or twice, it's not about
my brain imbalance or hormones.
It's about anxiety, real fear, justified.
It's about the next civil war.

My daughter's been predicting it for years,
starting at the old age of fifteen.
I didn't think I'd see it in my lifetime,
or hers. Maybe her kids', our lifeline
cut short by a madman's victory.

I know. Don't let him win.
Don't let hatred, bigotry, anger in.
You've been here before, I say,
and unless you want to be a burned out church,
I suggest you get off Facebook and try to chill out.

Folks, I have not had to take Klonopin in ages.
I'm not even sure it would work.
The pills have expired. Maybe it's better
to feel the same pain as my brothers and sisters
who are poets and lovers, gentle people,
openly hurt people, not just from this but from birth.

Our new president mocks us. Me.
Female with disabilities, mother of girls,
friend and family of gay and bisexual couples,
appreciator of diversity and buddies who speak Spanish.
We're in for oppression.

I'm sorry. I wish I could be more optimistic.
I wish I could spread kindness and peace
like I see some people doing. But I can't.
Because right now, I feel the same way
I felt when my mother died. You know
how it feels when the soul of
someone you love just ups and leaves?

Yeah. That's what's going on.
 I grieve. Here in my bathrobe,
solo in my home as the rest of my family
courageously takes on the outside world.
So I'm a coward, at least for a little while.

Don't pray for me. Don't bother.
I'll be okay. Send your prayers global.
Put them on a plane to circle the planet,
and hope it doesn't run out of fuel.
Because that's the last thing we need.
Another wreck.

Katherine Gotthardt
Copyright 2016

Friday, November 04, 2016

Major Draft of Something Not Sorted Out

For a Friend

I would feel bad for you, but I can't,
not just because you'd hate me for it,
but because I'm still unable to reconcile
the man in the video
with the man in the chat
with the man on the phone
with the man I've never met.
Apparently, I'm having
a hard time pulling it together.

I only get a (non) touch of you,
here and there, a virtual pat on the back
(you're much more well behaved than I am),
and a baby-sized biteful of insight.
This is how you describe yourself:
18 in the head, 500 in the body, crazy all around.
You've never sounded crazy to me.

I offered you a transplant the other night -
go ahead and have a kidney. My liver, though,
I don't believe I can do without. There's only one,
and I think I might need it,
if it's all the same with you. Besides,
I don't think it's in very good shape.
Too many meds, too many years, too much living.
But I'm not complaining.

You see, I told you once you were my fantasy man,
a fascinating enigma, waiting to be solved.
I wanted to play detective (among other things),
but another half wanted a reality check.
It makes life easier, being grounded.
Leave things to me and god knows where you'll end up.

Now I'm sitting here in my usual thinking-about-you mode,
two 7-11 Big Gulp cups on my desk,
one with an inch of sugar-free fruit punch,
the other brown-stained from soda.
I've not had enough sleep, and tonight will be no different.
You used to stay up longer than me,
but lately you take better care of yourself.
Now who's the crazy one?

In the morning (rather, later today) I'll get up,
pour myself some diet cola, pop some pills,
check my email, my Facebook, my messages,
wonder if you saw this poem. I'll detangle my hair,
brush on mascara, dress like I know what I'm doing,
and drive off to Panera Bread for a meeting.
I don't eat the carbs there, they're bad for me,
my contribution to my health
for the sake of your kidney.

Maybe I'll get a client. Maybe I'll just get a headache.
Maybe I'll get you something, too,
something better than you have right now.
Maybe you can tell me what that is besides body parts,
'cuz I'll be damned if I know.
You're always so fucking cheerful.  


copyright 2016
Katherine Gotthardt

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Poem Written First Thing in the Morning

Ode to Pharmacy

I realize
I've been counting
my days in pill bottles:
30 days,
60 days,
90 days,
happy pills,
calm pills,
water pills,
I-don't-even-know-
what-these-are-for
pills. Those
are the driest.
I take them with diet soda,
first thing in the morning,
bubbles and acid
pushing them down
my throat.
"How are you alive?"
my brother asks me.
And I laugh.

Because why not?
Somewhere, someone
else can barely
get out of bed,
his legs only good
as reminders,
and somewhere else,
a lover has a headache,
the real deal,
the kind that doesn't
let you open your eyes,
and somewhere else,
a mother stares blankly
at her burned out house,
a little girl
in a fragmented dress,
hugging her leg
tightly enough
to leave more bruises.
No, my meds
are the least of life's problems,
and this mess of a home
with pink socks on the floor
(they're supposed to be white),
black dog fur stuck to the rug,
white cat hair covering the sofa,
dishes in the sink,
the trite clutter of middle America,
who cares?
It's about perspective,
and thirty million people in China
really don't give a damn
about my fat rear
or my split ends
or anything
having to do with zits.
The bags under my eyes
are a little darker this morning,
puffy as I think about
the great weight of the world.
What's that, Big Pharma?
You're taking over the planet?
Good luck with that.
Not everyone can afford you.

Copyright 2016
Katherine Gotthardt
All Rights Reserved
 

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

King of Pain

Dedication

apologies to The Police

There's a little black spot on the sun today.
It's the same old thing since yesterday,
and I kneel here now, not too much to say
that will interest you, no, not this day.

You have stood there before inside the pouring rain
with the world turning circles running 'round your brain.
That single attack that comes around again,
makes you victim but regal. You're the king of pain.

If I could take it away, you know damn well I would,
suck it in my soul, make you feel so good
you would drop the bridge, like you know you should,
let me walk right in, past your childhood,

past the armored guards and the rusted knights,
past the throne room, to the staircase flights,
past the endless days and the lonely nights,
past the paralyzed memories and the brutal fights.

I would slip right past that stony space
you call your heart, and I'd touch your face
and I'd tell you, "Let's get out out of this place."
But you'd look at me, all your love erased.

You'd tell me your feeling, it disappears,
only anger left in your blood. It sears
the wounds, but never can it stop the tears,
are they yours or mine, these nighttime fears?

You have stood there before inside the pouring rain
with the world turning circles running 'round your brain.
That single attack that comes around again,
makes me victim but regal. I'm your queen of pain.

Queen of pain,
I'm always your queen of pain.