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Caroline Mei-Lin Mar ’05

Alumnae Poet

Caroline Mei-Lin Mar

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 

Select Poems


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 

at me. 

            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. 

About Caroline

Personal Website
Poetry Center Reading Dates: August 2020