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,




Mental Illness in America

Today I turned on the news to yet another senseless shooting in Missouri.  Each time I hear about a school shooting, or mall shooting or __________(fill in the blank) shooting I worry about what this repeated exposure to violence is doing to me.  For it is doing something.

It makes me afraid, it saddens me, and worst of all it makes these events become “normal”, “expected” and thus less shocking.  That is what terrifies me the most.  That I am becoming desensitized.   That I am becoming part of the problem.

In May of 2014, I was sitting in a small apartment in Mountain View, California, listening to the morning news, when they began covering a school shooting event in Oregon at Reynolds High School.  This was a school district I knew well, as I had worked as a school counselor in the neighboring district for seven years.  I still had friends who worked there. I knew the campus—the neighborhood.  I Knew what it was like to be in a school with distraught students and you yourself distraught, but putting aside your own emotions and feelings to take care of them.  I knew it wouldn’t be over once the shooting had ended.

And then I went on with my day.  By 3:00 in the afternoon I was back to writing.  This is a poem I wrote about that day and my own horror at how quickly I had moved on.

Mental Illness in America

                   Reynolds High School Shooting, May 2014

After my eyes welled wet,
after my Facebook post about
violence, teachers, fear,

after watching a reporter
interview a kid in shock
wondering where his
sister was,

after hearing the gym teacher
was fine, the bullet only grazed his hip,

after the horror of it,

I caught myself looking at my toes
noticed I needed a pedicure
thought Popsicle Pink
would match my new blouse.

Published in Cirque, A Literary Journal for the Pacific Northwest Rim, 2014 – Vol. 6. No. 1