Caroline Mei-Lin Mar '05
Caroline Mei-Lin Mar is the author of Special Education (Texas Review Press, 2020). A high school teacher in San Francisco, she is doing her best to keep her gentrifying hometown queer and creative. Carrie is a graduate of the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College, an alumna of VONA, and a member of Rabble Collective. She has been granted residencies at Vermont Studio Center and Ragdale and serves on the board of Friends of Writers. Find her online at carolinemar.com.
1. Auditory Processing Deficit
I say now is not the time for this conversation.
You hear shut the fuck up, dumbass.
I say open your books to page 253.
You hear open.
You hear books.
You hear page. But never
at the same time. You say,
what? I say the same thing
over again, rephrased or restated for clarification.
You say, what?
I say look at the picture,
or the written instructions, follow along
in the notes.
You say okay, I got it
I say your disability affects how you think
about the things you hear. I say pictures and writing
and reading help you learn. I say you need to double-check
the things you think you hear
other people saying. I say look
No, at me.
You say I don’t need
these special classes.
You say fuck you
I’m not fucking retarded.
2. Emotional Disturbance
The last time I saw him was the day
he ran up and down the hall, kids egging
him on as he dodged police we’d called because
he’d eaten out of the trash can again,
my trash can—
a sandwich dipped in paint,
yogurt cup full of old water, pencil
shavings. When I asked him why he liked it:
because there is already somebody’s
saliva on it. When I asked him why
he did it: the voices. When I assigned
homework, “imagine your life in ten years,”
he wrote, I hope I am not homeless.
3. Conduct Disorder
I dread your arrival, even
as I am tasked with your safety.
How can I do my job
like this? Even your freckles frown
in oppositional defiance.
I want to resist you, hell-bent
on hatred, your bitter-metal voice,
I call hurt babies herpes.
I throw my head back
and laugh, then the other boys laugh,
you are laughing, getting
what you wanted and maybe
what you didn’t—it’s not
that I hate you, though sometimes—
Who could need more than this?
You are mine,
my ugly little love.
4. Visual Processing Deficit
This is how it is: I’m watching your mouth move, the gloss
around your orderly teeth, square
and symmetrical, lined up like little blocks, the patterning
to their click and close,
while you tell me about this or that
child in crisis, and I hear you
with only one ear, while in the room
over your shoulder, behind my eyes,
I am visualizing the certain cascade
of Tetris tiles, sliding into the spaces made for them—
the holes left open—
falling into perfect place.