Katherine Gotthardt – LTNC Series

Latino Community Unravels

“With Latinos fleeing the combined effects of the construction downturn, the mortgage crisis and new local laws aimed at catching illegal immigrants, Latino shops are on the brink of bankruptcy, church groups are hemorrhaging members, neighborhoods are dotted with for-sale signs, and once-busy strip malls have been transformed into ghost towns.”  (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/03/26/AR2008032603333.html)

Why is this store so empty?
The cash girl’s eyes are caves,
inward turned, downward turned,
downward toward her laces,
loosely bound, blind eyelet sets,

the red, white and blue stained sneakers,
industrial woven canvas, the rubber

if she has to run.

Work at home, work at the store,

bathe Abuela tonight, scan for cans

to pile here, keep one ear out for the doorbell—

as if listening will bring people in.

These are the braids of her living now,

between metal aisles and shelves,

no customer now, no jangle now, might as well

sweep again. Pick up the corn-husk broom,

clean like there’s business tomorrow,

in this old store, ethnic store, clean away the Spanish.

Bleach the tiles twice today, power-wash her skin,
beg her body to look like the powerful–
at least until payday again.

You Made Me Feel Illegal

You made me feel illegal
the way you eyed my hair
too-long-too-dyed-for-work hair
too-third-world-take-care-of-kids hair
too-got-to-clean-the-house hair
too-too-much-chat-about-the-family hair.

You made me feel illegal
my Wal-mart pants and blouses
my too-this-isn’t-how-we-dress-here clothes
too-cheap-to-even-work-here clothes
too-girly-to-do-your-job-here clothes
too-back-to-the-slum-with-you-dear clothes.

You made me feel illegal
pointing out my jewelry
“too gold” you say, “too gaudy”
my too-don’t-show-your-face-in-the-lobby jewelry
too-you-know-nothing-about-our-country jewelry
too-go-home-to-anchor-babies jewelry.

You made me feel illegal
like I’m too-you-can’t-speak-like-we-know how
too-got-no-right-to-talk now
too-got-to-go-and-wash-sticky-floors now
too-better-go-cook-in-a-filthy-kitchen now
too-best-sweep-up-the-dirt-you-see now.

You made me feel illegal
too-nothing-more-than-low class
too-nothing-less-than loathed
You made me feel illegal.

You should be illegal.


To write poetry,
you must untrain
your brain,
forget the rigidities
of relationships.
Where is the mug

of Cuban coffee
you made me a moment ago?
Here, in the sunlight,
keeping it warm.
I’d like to stay here.
Sip it.


Katherine Gotthardt, M.Ed.

President, Write by the Rails


InsideNova’s Best of Prince William Award-Winning Author

Read About this Artist’s Activism:



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