Thursday 6 June 2024

Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt: Backstories

Even dandelions have backstories, 
if you think long enough about your
past. How when you were supple 
as their stems, your friend taught 
you how to pluck the right ones, 
close to the root, find a widened 
opening at the base, use your nail 
to split the tube in two, and peel.  

The first strips, especially if the plant
was more mature, sticky milk along 
the ridges already dried from summer,  
turned out stiff as ribbon. But newer  
buds, those that had not yet forgotten  
the earth and still held the acute hunger
things are born with, you tried those  

and saw first-hand the miracle: curls 
and springs ripe for independent play, 
fun, bouncy companions you could 
animate, even at an age when you were  
unfamiliar with yourself and didn’t know  
you had any creative power in you. Any
power in you at all. But even back then,  

you had empathy, you did not want  
them dying, these curly cues, as you  
dubbed them, a fresh revelation amid  
unkempt yards and nothing very much
uncommon. You put them in a bowl 
of cold water, watched them coil into 
themselves, tight lifetimes no longer  
bound to soil. And when they turned 

brown and your mother told you to 
throw them out, you returned them  
to the clovered patch they came    
from, some early romantic notion 
of reintroducing them to their family,  
their people, who themselves had  
grown different, more beautiful—
white puffs of wishes being made. 

Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt, M.Ed., is the author of 12 books and has been widely published in journals, magazines and anthologies since the early 1990s. She has won awards from Prince William County and Manassas Virginia, Poetry Society of Virginia, the Nonfiction Authors Association and numerous publications. Learn more at