Math That Doesn’t Add Up

Once again, I am in Mountain View, California.  Yesterday, while eating lunch with my husband, the news of another shooting in San Bernardino, California was playing on all the televisions mounted in the lunchroom.

On my last trip here, it was the Umpqua Community College shooting on the news.  One of the times before that, Reynolds High School in Oregon.

Here is a poem I wrote after the Umpqua Community College shooting.  You can also read my poem “Mental Illness in America” which I wrote after the Reynolds High School shooting in an earlier post.

I am sorry to be writing these poems.  I think however, I would be more sorry to not be writing them.  It seems the best way for me to process this repeated grief, to not become numb, to continue to say, this is not ok.

Math That Doesn’t Add Up

Umpqua Community College Shooting – Sept. 2015
Roseburg, Oregon

This morning my son rode his bicycle
to class at an Oregon college campus

sat at a desk calculating algorithms
while 110 miles south near Roseburg

a mother got the news her child had been
shot to death in Introductory Writing.

If an algorithm is a formal set of steps to solve a
problem, could someone please calculate

the number of safe days my child can attend school
before the rules of sentence structure degrade to

writing poems in blood? Or if the syllabus now reads:
taking this class may be hazardous to your health

is there a formula I can use to decide if
he should withdraw from class?

And while you are busy crunching the numbers, how about
solving this one. Are the mentally ill just the hunters or the

hunted—a collective club we join each time we hear
a child weep, look them in the eye

and spin another tale of hope—
when tomorrow, we know, in another town

there will be another shooting, and all our promises
of safekeeping, are lies.


Yours in poetry,




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