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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

screamed back, 

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. 

Gypsy Education 

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 

the song? 


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 

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