Weaker than Water

"In the world, there is nothing more submissive and weak than water. Yet for attacking that which is hard and strong, nothing can surpass it." –Lao Tzu

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Because I rarely understand men,
(and women can be vague as myth),
I spend inordinate hours thinking, alone,
a poet roaming some old, rickety home,
imagination circling the tower of Rilke and storm,
expecting nothing, and yet, and yet…

there has been the mistaken connection.

Like match to aging, gray slate,
the burn of not having turns more flammable
than any heap of brittle magazines and letters,
because at least, at least those were something once.
They live in wrinkled print, either by some lover’s hand
or machine inked to the top, dripping over just a little bit,
perhaps on the front cover, like a tear, and then called art.

I don’t have that talent, though. I never could paint.
I was never good at talking, either, never much at anything.
So when it came time to amuse or seduce,
I’d always resorted to writing.

But if words are typed and never read,
mumbled quickly, urgent as a new day,
spelled wrong, then edited, only to be ignored,
words, words adored by only the author,
were they ever really alive?

How about me?
Am I?


Copyright 2017, Katherine Gotthardt


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Born in the USA (apologies to Bruce Springsteen)

I was born
with the cord
wrapped ’round my neck,
bass ackwards.
“I feel the head!”
the doc said.
Or at least,
that’s how the story went.
Nothing like being
pulled out by the butt at birth.
Fun times. Poor mom.
There was a lump on my throat,
not the crying kind –
a real mass from strangulation.
I’m not looking for pity.
I just think it explains a lot,
like why I’m writing poetry
past midnight on a Thursday,
after a long day. My brain aches.
My writing hand hurts.
I’m a lefty. No, not politically.
I vacillate there, but who cares?
Trump, Obama,
Reagan, Clinton,
two Bushes and a Carter.
What’s the difference?
They all squeeze the air out.

And the doctor’s bills?

Rising like uncontrolled blood pressure.
Hold your breath.

We’re going under.

Copyright 2017, Katherine Gotthardt

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A Christmas Love Poem

Love is like playing telephone.
You remember, don’t you,
connecting two tin cans with a thin wire?
The concept was there, but it’s hard
to carry words through thin air
and have them translate correctly.
The metal gets in the way.

If I had money, I’d buy you a phone
for Christmas. Not a cheap one like mine.
Something with all the gadgets you use.
No contract required. If it breaks,
we find a way to fix it ourselves.

But for now, we’re stuck with cans.
Please don’t cut the cord.

-Katherine Gotthardt

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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?

Katherine Gotthardt, copyright 2016

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Ode to an Apothecary

It occurs to me
I’ve been counting
my year by prescriptions:
30 days,
60 days,
90 days,
happy pills,
calm pills,
water pills,
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 vacantly
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 clumped on the rug,
pale cat hair clothing 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

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anoesis \an-oh-EE-sis\, noun:
A state of mind consisting of pure sensation or emotion without cognitive content

Because five years ago
I posted this “word
of the day” on Facebook,
I remembered this morning
how I’d discovered my appetite:
a hankering for an empty brain,
usually warning,
“possible pain ahead.”
I love when I ignore red flags.

The fact is, I also love love.
I discovered this in my thirties,
when I fell in love five or six times
and nothing really came of it
because I was already in love
and wasn’t willing to give that up.
Nothing here has changed.

More than fifteen year later,
you’d think I would have grown out of it,
but my pining for anoesis
remains, wet mouthed and empty.
Some Buddhist giggles,
reminding me that craving
is the origin of hurt.
Get rid of desire and peace follows.

But I am a crappy Buddhist.
The love I want would be so cerebral,
it would dissolve my mind
into nothing, and passion
would be all that remains.

I could tell you explicitly,
but what’s the point? No
one can offer what I long for,
I suck at mediation,
and masturbation is just stupid.

So here I am, sitting in the corner,
writing bad poetry and crying.
Okay, not quite crying – whining
like a dog wanting to go out
and roll in the dirt right after a bath.
Keep that door closed, please.

Katherine Gotthardt, Copyright 2016

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What Fear Looks Like

One would think
I’d have learned by now
not to get too close,

because once I do,
the next day
you back away

towards the other.
In one moment,
we’re near enough

to breathe each other’s breath.
I want to touch your face,
finger the rough edges

around your mouth
where you never
bother to shave,

run my tongue across your lips,
kiss your neck
where the base meets

your collarbone,
revel in the smell
of the oneness

you made me believe in,
put my hand on your chest,
feeling the t-shirt beneath,

hiding the heartbeat
I know is there,
pumping for someone else.

copyright 2016, Katherine Gotthardt