May You Find A Way

As a former educator, I have written before about my reaction to school shootings in my home state of Oregon.  I have shared on this blog poems I have written as a response to the senseless killing of innocent children and the adults responsible to serve them. I posted these poems earlier under Mental Illness in America and Math That Doesn’t Add Up.

After the most recent tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, I cannot just keep writing poems about these events and I beg each of you to do more than wring your hands or write your prose or poetry, or whatever it is you do, and then go back to your life as normal.

I needed to write the poems I have written.  I will continue to write poems about the loss I feel each time a person is gunned down in mass shootings in this country.  But I can no longer only do that.  I will stand behind the youth of America who have raised their voices and said You are either with us or against us, because I believe being silent is a form of complicity.  I will be in attendance on March 24th in the March for Our Lives.  I have already made a donation for this event at March for Our Lives/Go Fund Me.  I have begun reading about how our elected officials vote on gun laws.  This is just my beginning.

As a poet, I will continue to process my grief through writing, but with an understanding that my writing is not enough.  I understand we can never eliminate violence—as the arc of history has proven—but we can do more, we can promise to do our best to keep our children as safe as we possibly can, and I will work towards that end until my poem Math That Doesn’t Add Up ends differently, with a line that in the very least suggests— And all our promises of safekeeping are NOT lies.

May you find in the reflection of the mirror every morning a face that will say, we are better than this, and may you find courage every day you walk out your door to work, each time you kiss your child or grandchild goodnight, each time you hear of another community shattered by senseless slaughter the strength to do something.  May you find a way to make a promise of safekeeping to all the innocent victims who want nothing more than to hang out with friends at school, attend a concert, or pray in their church.   May you find a way.


Yours in Poetry,


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,