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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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



Christmas Carol

Because spirits gifted winter on our doorsteps,

and because the way the rain morphed

into pieces of Advent and Christmas and New Year,

we celebrate by turning on the fire.


I have often wished for “real fire,” the kind

that starts with wood, not gas and switches.

But on a day when trees lean in to introduce

themselves, it matters not—and besides,

I can greet the pines without guilt. Good fire

is good fire, after all, and heat as essential as skin.


Our children cut cardstock into Christmas greetings,

shapes transformed to acts of love, the scent

of plenty and light, the sound of pages turning,

and I wonder how the other half lives.


But then again, I know.


There are no fires in the tents of the homeless,

no paper or scissors or glue sticks,

no green bows or hot, spiced tea, or computer

keys tapping out poems. There are bellies


and fright of the poor, icicles threatening

canvass and bone, sneakers in lieu of boots,

sterno a luxury sometimes shared.


We light a candle for them—real fire, real wax,

real affluence, these dry matches and wicks. We

recite Biblical stories, angels declaring salvation,

manger protecting an awaited king, animal breath

heating hay. And at this moment, with snow

blocking our way to action,

the best we can do is hope.


Dec. 6, 2009

Copyright KMG


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You can tell
the new ones:
they look the same,
one, long level
smelling like floor wax
and carpet and pride,
trophy cases
piercing the eye
with a shine
that never reaches
the three-story
schools with scuff
marks and nicks, dull
lighting, rough desks
with graffiti
and memories.

You’d think we
were more than
one county,
the way the “city”
kids dress—
more cleavage
and obvious boxers
compared to
the suburban rest—
the way trailers stack
up out back,
taking in overflow,
the way the meetings go:
Why do they get
to plan a pool,
but we don’t?

The new schools, yes,
they’ve got cash–
Smart Boards and art clubs
and fresh team garbs,
PTOs (of moms and dads),
demanding new soccer balls
and grass.

Meanwhile, somewhere
in a loud hall, some
teen carves his name
on a fifty-year-old wall,
then pens himself
a new tattoo.
You can bet
it’s not the school mascot.

copyright May 18, 2013

Katherine M. Gotthardt

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break down
on a road
with rush
hour and rain?

you had
to walk. Maybe
wore jewelry,
a flowery dress,
about your
cheap shoes, so
took them
off, only to

a Mercedes
blow mud puddles
your eyes
when you cried.

Katherine Gotthardt
draft 2
copyright May 15, 2013

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No justice here, so…

No Sense Waiting

If I

did nothing

but wait for justice,

I’d blight

into a tired

lady, creaking by

in disappointment,

reeking of wasted time.

copyright March 23, 2013, Katherine Gotthardt