Selection of Poems
A phone call came, my uncle
Saying they couldn’t find him,
He wasn’t answering his phone, then
Another, my aunt saying the same.
They asked that I check on him, insistent
That something was wrong,
They were right, I left
My family to check on a stranger.
I pulled into a driveway I’d been in
Hundreds of times before,
As a child, then teen, playing in gravel
sunk into mud while grass grew where no tires traveled
To smash anything that would grow
then again now, I see two cars
parked and lights on
Inside a house I once lived in, mortar cracked and falling
out from between the bricks, held together now by moss and mold.
“You abandoned me!” This 60 year old
Man sitting in rotting food and vodka bottles,
I should have left then.
Who abandoned who? I
Fought off vodka bottles and rotting food
Until he was up on me, grabbing
My throat, kept at arm's length
Until he hit the ground
Hit the floor where I played with toys and watched TV,
When drunkenness meant he was passed out Instead
of thrown down.
It was there he died to me,
Lying on trampled, once beige shag
In the only room still presentable inside a condemned house
As a young boy in a man’s body now
Shaking with rage, trying to stop
Stared down at all he knew of manhood.
I still hear his voice, still see
His face in the mirror, reaching out To
grab me in emails and messages like
seances, trying to justify why
he was right, why I was wrong, and God help me, I
still don’t know.
Sitting in my truck in the parking lot again,
listening to Dorothy's Blues and smoke vocals.
Inside there's a classroom and a lesson I didn't prep for.
No real reason other than I didn't want to,
Don’t want to…
Other teachers are walking in with fresh dresses and pleated khakis,
dragging behind them carts full of potential,
Puff letters in cartoon bubbles, pumpkin stickers, things to say “I Love You.” On
the console next to me is a "Thank You" bag full of three day old leftovers
There's a cold, black coffee in the cup holder.
I learned to travel light, do without, don't unpack,
you'll be somewhere else, doing something else. A
Gypsy educator with a cell-phone in his hand,
typing rough drafts of poetry into a Facebook update box.
A regular Hunter S. Thompson, minus the LSD.
Social media is the new bar napkin. Sláinte.
I’ve heard you can get addicted to pain. I
like the songs that dig into you,
really hit the nerves “You’re
not good enough.” “You’re
“You’d be better off gone,” however that plays out.
You know what I’m saying?
That voice; it’s your voice, like your own
voice, telling you these things, whispering
shit in your ear that applies pressure to the
cracks that are already there, riding the
minor chords of the song you chose,
playing on repeat,
specifically to do this. You wanted this to happen. That
was the plan. The bottle of scripts you swallowed with a
bottle of whiskey, half gone. Last time it was the stained
edge of a box cutter, still caked
with the drywall you were hanging the weekend before.
Your voice changed to regret as soon as you did it,
you can’t tell if its yours anymore,
maybe it's the lyrics? It’s hard to tell
at this point. Whatever it is, it’s screaming. Something’s
Someone? - I don’t remember crying…
Did someone change
Born from Fading Embers
Those whose nights are darkest
learn to cherish small moments of light.
Fading embers cast off of dying stars
with only hesitant breath and fading hope left
to keep shadows away.
They are gifted with the ability to find
others in that darkness and share
those moments with them.
Because the darkness hides in plain sight, behind
the eyes of those who paint their masks in bright
colors and over-dramatized smiles
to draw attention away from their gaze.
But those who know the brush strokes and palette,
the hyperbolic curve of lips curled into fake grins,
Know where the artist is trying to draw the eye
and where they're not,
They know the weave of canvas underneath.
So we who can, gather those we find around
for a moment's warmth; a laugh between friends,
a quiet nod, a small gesture of reassurance, something to
draw the eye away from the darkness, something
to cup our hands around and breathe life into,
Because we remember
that Depression is a liar and we each are raging fires
born from fading embers cast off of dying stars.
Eric Hagen UC Alum; 2013 Undergrad - Middle School Education XU Alum; 2016 Grad - Education Administration