My latest echo poem

Alma Mater
An echo of “America”
Inspired, as always, by Allen Ginsberg

For Cliff and Nicole

Alma Mater I’ve given you my all and now I’m nothing.
Alma Mater, May 9th, 2007.
I can’t stand my tender heart.
Alma mater when will the drama end?
Go screw yourself with your tenacious grasp on my throat.
I’m over you don’t bother me.
I won’t write this poem till I’m in the right frame of mind.

Alma Mater when will you be whole again?
When will you rock me in your arms?
When will you shake the disease of ignorance?
When will you be worthy of your thousand scholars?
Alma Mater why is there blood on your blacktop?
Alma Mater when will you send the villains to Hell?
I’m sick of your weakness.
When can I come back and receive a loving welcome
without guilt or regret?
Alma Mater after all it is you and I who are the problem,
Not the powers that be.
Your neediness is too much for me.
You made me want to be a saint.
There must be some other way to make things right.
B is in heaven. He will never come back. It’s sad.
Are you sad or is this some sort of practical joke?
I’m trying to come to the point.
I refuse to give up my obsession.
Alma Mater stop pushing. I know what I’m doing.
Alma Mater the stone fruit is ripening.
I haven’t prayed the rosary in months. Every day somebody gets murdered in the streets.
Alma Mater I feel sentimental about the kids by the trees.
Alma Mater I used to be a liar when I was a kid and I am sorry.
I talk trash every chance I get.
I sit on my couch sometimes and stare at the black and white photo of the Immaculate Conception statue from St. Joachim’s.
When I go to church I get distracted and never pray enough.
My mind is made up there’s going to be trouble.
You should have seen me reading Dostoyevsky.
My therapist thinks I’m better.
I won’t say goodbye yet.
I have flashbacks and see ghosts.
Alma Mater I still haven’t told you what you did to that boy who overdosed on heroin.

I’m addressing you.
Are you going to let your future be dictated by the machine?
I detest the machine.
It grinds good people into dust every week.
Its gears roll on like millstones, roll over good intentions.
I dream of the machine imploding some day.
It tells me about inadequacy. Administrators are inadequate. Teachers are inadequate. Everyone’s inadequate, especially me.
It occurs to me that I am Alma Mater.
I am always talking to myself.

Public opinion is rising against me.
I haven’t got a BP exec’s chance.
I’d better consider my natural resources.
My natural resources consist of two citrus fruit trees roomfuls of clutter three unpublished novels a mind that can go 200 miles an hour and 32000 hours of psychotherapy.
I say nothing about the parents I have failed to call nor the dozens of ungraded papers who live in piles on my desk under curriculum binders.
I have banned the snap of gum; chips are the next to go.
My ambition is to be famous despite the fact that I’m not photogenic.

Alma Mater how can I write a catalog poem, and an ode, in this gray mood?
I will continue like Steve Jobs my stanzas are as innovative as his iGadgets more so they’re all different gender identities.
Alma Mater I will sell you stanzas $10K a piece $1000 down on your old stanza.
Alma Mater remember Brett Haagenson
Alma Mater remember John Hilmer
Alma Mater we won that National Blue Ribbon School award
Alma Mater I am one of Kemo Sabe’s AP kids.
Alma Mater when I was fifteen my parents threw me a quinceanera but in our garage and I danced the waltz with all the Peruvian dads but none of my school friends showed and no one understood my secret pain the crying bouts in a dark closet the sting of an Exacto knife on wrist but you found me drew me out through words shook my hand put me on the front page of the Record.
Everyone was so proud.
Alma Mater you really don’t want to stop fighting.
Alma Mater it’s those with authority.
Authority power and money. And power.
Power wants to dissolve you. Power is power mad. It wants to rip our spines out of us as if we were fish.
Power wants to change us. Power wants us to be Stepford people. Power wants us to function like a copy machine factory. Power wants bureaucracy running our lives.
That won’t work. No. Power pretends we fails our kids. Power pretends we don’t respect black and brown families. Ha! Power makes us all work eighty hour work weeks. Help.
Alma Mater this is quite serious.
Alma Mater this is the impression I get from reading Facebook status updates.
Alma Mater is it true?
It’s true I didn’t want to work like the horse in Animal Farm or stand by passively, I’m short and mentally unstable anyway.
Alma Mater, I’m walking.


At group last night, I was bubbling over with joy. I told my colleagues about Blues, about how happy I am that we communicate, about how grateful I am to be with someone who treats me the way I deserve.
Today, I feel ill, defeated, lost again. I want to close my eyes.

Confession 5: I confess

Used to think the worst thing I have ever done happened eight years ago. Me, undiagnosed Borderline, so deep in self-hatred that I let myself to sink into the slime of so many other corpses. No one, but one person, knows about that night, not even a confessor. Used to feel so ashamed but that one person showed me compassion, offered acceptance. No more Leviticus cry of “unclean, unclean!” In that listener, I found mercy.

Ironic that I did not show mercy to this healer. Instead, let my self-loathing spiral out of control day after day. And then on that worst night, even after I pleaded with my dead Play Brother to help me not panic, I gave in to my uncontrollable fears and rage against myself. Drank. Fell hard on the hotel room floor. Ranted and raved at the one person who has accepted even my worst self. Slashed razor across left forearm but so lost I could only scrape skin, not draw blood. Threw phone against wall once, twice. Tore bedding off beds. Ripped head off little wooden bird. Pulled dirty clothes onto bare skin. Drove fast, fast. Ran into brightly lit store and was glad when no one stared. Wrote more lies. Drove back, sobbing to self, telling self to drive to nearest bridge. Clawed my bloody heart and mind. Told myself lies. Cried myself to sleep.

There is no greater sin than to hurt the ones we love.

Cried in the confessional today.

Waiting on a different kind of silence

“Have the lambs stopped screaming?” Silence of the Lambs

I don’t like the quiet. Silence is different. It is peaceful, contemplative, calming. The quiet is just that: too still, too empty, too eerie. The quiet could be when you don’t hear from someone for days, their phone disconnected or voicemail brimming over. The quiet can occur in a crowded high school hallway, kids talking and laughing, iPods blasting, games being played, while underneath the current of violence moves forward.

A pretty girl lies in the street, her face a bloody mess. Her mother joins her in the ambulance as police cars surround the scene.

This morning, one of my favorite students came to see me. Dressed in one of her typical trendy 80s retro outfits, she earnestly described her fears. She’s had bad blood with two notorious sisters, typical girl drama over a boy. Her so-called brother(I believe he’s her “friend with benefits” though she denies such a connection) told her that the sisters would jump her this week, even today. She assured me she’d keep walking away because she’s trying to change. Her applications for class officer and cheerleader prove that she has an interest in being more than just another hoodrat. She was scared. And now she’s at the hospital.

Why didn’t I do anything? My colleagues say I had no power in this situation. One of the sisters had been dropped from school to independent study. The other wouldn’t have listened to any warnings or threats from us. I can’t help but feel that my silence helped hurt her. I want so badly to help people, whether it’s my kids or my loved ones. Whenever I can’t, I feel lost.

I miss Soldier. His voice and his words always soothe me. But he’s unreachable.

The quiet hurts. Right now, I don’t feel sad or hopeless. I’m scared, nervous, on edge. The quiet stretches on.