Another Coffee Poem

I sit, just me and my coffee mug.

I don’t have much to say,

to the owls on my mug, or to you.

But we keep each other company.


I really don’t have much to say,

although, there is so much I could say.

But at least I have company,

while I silently mock my mute tongue.


There is so much I should say,

not to the owls on my mug but to you.

I silently mock my bitter tongue, while

I sit, just me and my coffee mug.


The Dreaded Question

“What are your plans for college?” It was the question I disliked the most growing up. It was something I was asked periodically while I would be out with my mother during the day. I typically handled the question respectfully, but there was something about being asked that question while I was on vacation that sent me over the edge. “I’m not going to college,” I replied flippantly to the man who had asked me this time. The next thing that happened was something akin to Gato’s Grandfather telling him, “if I was bored it was my own fault and no one else’s” (142). I wasn’t expecting to get a lesson on my future when I pulled up to that Tennessee welcome center, but it was an experience that has stayed with me ever since.

My mother homeschooled me through my entire K-12 years. She put a lot of work into making sure that I stayed on task and up to standards with my public school counterparts. Looking back, I can appreciate her efforts. But at the time I despised school and any

thoughts of going to college were nonexistent in my bored brain. Despite being one of the “happy homeschoolers” mentioned in Gato’s, Against School I was bored with my school work. It wasn’t my mother’s fault, she worked hard to keep me on task. I was, at least, an avid reader.  It’s a quality that my mother instilled in me from a young age, taking me and my sisters to the library at least once a week. But outside of reading, I saw most of what I was required to learn as meaningless. I would pay attention to the subjects I found interesting but skimmed the rest. Much like Rose in I Just Wanna Be Average, “I did what I had to get by, and I did it with half a mind” (154). And if I didn’t enjoy school now, then what use would college be to me?

I didn’t see much benefit to being homeschooled when I was young. After all, I lived with my teacher who could at any time of the day pester me with, “Did you get your schoolwork done?” But it was nice not having to catch a bus in the early morning, I could go run errands with my mother during the day when other kids were in school, and best of all we could go on vacation any time of the year.

When I was a teenager my parents took us to see the Smokey Mountains during autumn. As you could imagine, the scenery was beautiful. Technically, there wasn’t any smoke on the mountains at the time and the colors weren’t as vivid due to lack of rain in the summer. But I didn’t care about that so much; I just liked the escape from home and school. We stayed at a little hotel that overlooked a horse pasture. Across the street and everywhere else around us was your usual commercial, tourist town entertainment. And of course, there was the welcome center that you passed on your way into town.

My family didn’t typically make a point of stopping at a welcome center, but my parents had booked a package rate through one of the offers that the center provided. In order to get the rate, we had to pick up some vouchers at the welcome center before we could check in to our hotel. I didn’t know the details, didn’t really care. I was just happy to get out of the car after 10 million hours on the road with my younger sisters. The place was filled with your typical tourist map information, generic chairs for sitting in, and happy people in bright t-shirts that sported the name of the town.

Some of the exhibits about the local history fascinated me; I decided I wanted to see some of the old settlements up in the mountains. But my interest waned and I sat in one of the stiff generic grey chairs until my parents said it was time to go. I watched as my parents finish talking with one of the employees, a slightly older gentleman. Upon being called, me and my sisters quickly assembled from the various parts of the room. Apparently, they had told the employee that we were homeschooled. I guess he was wondering why three school aged girls were running around his welcome center instead of being in school. He wasn’t exactly as happy as the rest of the employees, but he seemed like a nice enough fellow to me. That is until he set his eyes on me and asked me the dreaded question.

After giving him my attitude-ridden reply, he looked back at my parents and asked if he could give me some grandfatherly type advice. They consented and he promptly turned back to me and gave me a talking to. Looking back on the incident, I don’t recall everything he said. However, I do remember him telling me, “You have your mother there for you whenever you need help with something. If you go to college, there will be someone there for you as well, whether it is a professor or a peer.” I think, when I replied to his initial question the way I did, he saw that I didn’t fully appreciate what I had. I had a mother who was there 24/7 to help me with anything I needed. Not everyone has that available to them. My attitude about my education was irksome because it was disrespectful to the efforts my parents had put into it. He had many points about the reasons why getting a college degree would be good for me, but I think it was my attitude that prompted him to talk with me.

At the end of our discussion, he asked me if I would at least think about going to college, which I nodded that I would. I just really wanted to get out of there. In an idealistic “Yay for education!” story, I would have to say that I walked out of that welcome center and into the beautiful Tennessee mountain air a changed almost-woman. In reality, I was just annoyed that I had been embarrassed in front of my whole family. And now, to make matters worse, I had to get back into the car with my younger sisters who were arguing about who had to sit in the back row of the van.

But to the welcome center man’s credit, he did plant a seed in my mind that eventually took root. It wasn’t until my senior year of high school that, much like Rose, I started thinking about the possibility that I might like to go to college (160). I still had my misgivings about school, and I wasn’t sure that I was going to like extending my time as a student. But I developed a desire to learn more about literature and writing through my love of books and reading. There were things I wanted to learn more about. Somewhere along the way I had learned to start caring about what my mother was trying to teach me. I also felt like going to college, and doing well in school, would prove to everyone that my mother did in fact do a good job with my education. It had never occurred to me before that there were those who doubted my mother’s decision to home school her girls.

By the time I reached my senior year, I had started to help my mom with my younger sister’s schoolwork. I didn’t realize it at the time but the idea that teaching was something I would end doing was somehow planted in my head. I enjoyed finding ways to engage them with their work because I knew exactly how they felt; I had been just as disengaged and bored them. By now I’ve given two of them the “Why you should go to college talk.” My 20-year-old sister is studying business. And the 17-year-old, well, I’m still working on her. I see so much of myself in her and I hope that one day she can see the value of what she’s been given.

Works Cited

Gatto, John Taylor. “Against School.” Rereading America. Ed. Gary Colombo, Robert Cullen,

Bonnie Lisle. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2013. 141-49. Print.

Rose, Mike. “I Just Wanna Be Average.” Rereading America. Ed. Gary Colombo, Robert Cullen,

Bonnie Lisle. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2013. 151-62. Print.


The Lucky Ones

They want me to document things from my perspective. Apparently it’s some new propaganda campaign they want to try out.

So fine, here are things from my perspective.

Every day I wake up to a cold room filled with harsh lights. Dad and the other scientist say that they kill anything that would harm us. I get some sort of warm breakfast, usually stuff that’s been rehydrated and warmed up. Not bad, not good. Then we go through the daily routine. They try to keep up with my education here. Mom says just because there are no schools, doesn’t mean I get an excuse to let my brain rot. Like I could stop that anyway…

Photo used with permission from Tony Isaac via Instagram

Photo used with permission courtesy of Tony Isaac via Instagram

Sometimes, if we’re real lucky, they let us go outside.  There’s just a few of us left here. “Uncle Rusty,” Haley, Mrs. B. Plus a few others who never leave their rooms. They’re the closest thing I have to family, besides my parents of course. There’s not a lot to do outside, we can’t leave the fenced area. So, mostly we just sit and visit because when we’re inside we’re too busy to get to see each other, the daily routine being what it is. It’s nice to feel the warmth of the sun, rather than the cold harsh light inside.

But we only go outside when there aren’t any threats from those who think we need to be wiped out, which I hear is getting worse everyday. I’m not sure that I blame them. Some days, I wouldn’t mind being wiped out. There are military here who protect the facility. Some of the original military, from the original government. Not many of them left. Most moved on to the factions, acting as mercenaries or joining the causes altogether.

But you already know that.

At the end of the day I get to go back to my room, assuming I got to leave it that day. There’s another rehydrated meal and then the lights go out for the night.

Dad says we’re lucky, sometimes I think I still believe that, but I’m not sure what’s kinder, believing that nothing’s wrong and life is just as grand as those old TV shows used to make it out to be, or acknowledging that the world has gone to hell in a handbasket and we all might as well just give up.

Photo used with permission from Tony Isaac via Instagram

Photo used with permission courtesy of Tony Isaac via Instagram

I remember when things fell apart. The panic and then the mad dash to the safe zones. The suicides, the homicides, whole families taken out in “mercy killings.” Things were bad in the highest populated areas. Resources didn’t last long. Militias started cropping up and from there city states and republics started establishing themselves. Smaller governments became larger governments and then they started disagreeing over boundaries and distribution of resources.

I was 11 when that all happened. Now I’m 15. 4 years since the big event. I’ve spent almost that whole time in here. Mom and Dad think that I didn’t really understand what was going on at the time, but I’ve had a lot of time to think about the things I saw before we got out. I understood a lot more than what they realized I did. I understand even more now. I hear people saying things like, “he’s only 15.” But you try being “only 15” when you’ve gone through the hell I’ve been through. Age is just a number, isn’t that what they used to say?

We’re lucky though, like my Dad is always saying, we stayed outside of the conflict. Mostly because my Dad is a scientist and he was able to move us to a research facility that still exists under what’s left of the old government. Our family stayed “intact,” if that’s what you want to call it. Any other day I would applaud Dad’s efforts to keep the family together, to continue his work. He wants to fix things. Nothing wrong with that, but I’ve come to the conclusion that he’s wasting his time.

Not exactly what they were looking for when they asked me to give my perspective. But here’s the truth…

For the last 4 years they have been able to slow the progression. That’s it. Don’t get me wrong, that’s amazing to say the least. I would have been dead, or worse, years ago. I’ve lasted this long because my parents were able to get me into this facility as soon as they found I was infected.  Of course, it helps when your Dad is the head scientist. Other’s weren’t that lucky.

But despite all this I’m still rotting. Every year, every day, I slip into the disease. We all progress at different rates. Me and Haley were younger when we contracted the infection, our systems have taken the drugs more easily than others. Mrs. B hasn’t had a coherent thought in a long time, but she’s still mostly placid. Last week Uncle Rusty had an episode, I haven’t seen him since.

Photo created by me, I gave myself permission to use it.

Photo created by me, I gave myself permission to use it.

My parents are of the mindset that they are providing a kindness to those who make it into the program. I wish the prolonged suffering would just end. My parent’s haven’t touched me in 4 years. If anyone comes into my room, they are in thick bio suits that protect them from whatever lives inside my body, eating away at my humanity. The rest of the time they stare at me through a thick layer of glass.

The only people I’ve had real contact with is Haley and the others like us, but they slip further away from me every day. We’re all starting to reach the turning point, it won’t be much longer now.

Dad still tells me every day that I’m lucky. We’re all lucky. We still have family, we still have each other. He says they are days away from a cure. He’s been saying that for so long now that I’ve stopped hoping. I look at him and Mom through the glass and I think, “Yeah, you have me, but I don’t have you.” It’s hard to feel like you’re a part of a family through a thick glass wall. But hey, I’m one of the lucky ones…


Paper Prison

I think somewhereI lost myself on a sheet of

trapped, between the faint
blue lines
held straight by the pinkish red
along the side

sometimes, the ink
dries and scratches the paper
leaving scars
on the thin membrane
of my prison

I fly to the very edge
thinking myself free

but I just find myself again
on the reverse

a new torment unleashed
on the mind
a new battlefield
covered in slaughtered words

I fight the expanse
of white
in hopes of finding my end
on this paper