not arithmetic but the learning and social disability

add is not funny.
it is not cute, either.

it isn’t oh he forgot his wallet again, that joel, whatcha gonna do.

it’s i can’t believe i forgot my wallet again, how on earth did i forget it, i knew i would need it, i feel stupid, i have to turn around and go back and get it, maybe i just won’t do whatever it is i needed to do, how am i going to explain this, especially since i did this just a few weeks ago, now this is going to take me twice as long and i don’t have time to do that other thing i keep meaning to do but don’t.

add is chemicals that make my brain
tell me half-truths
and leave me alone in the dark
feeling around with my hands
quietly asking ‘hello is there anyone else here’
too ashamed to ask for help
any louder than a whisper.

when i was in the fifth grade
i spent my entire christmas break
sick to my stomach, mortified
because i thought there was a project
i should be working on but since
i couldn’t pay attention in class
i wasn’t sure and since i felt like
it was my fault for not paying attention
i was too ashamed and scared
to ask anyone.

i wept openly at my desk with relief
i was eleven years old and in the corner
because i didn’t know how to behave
because i had add and wasn’t diagnosed
and felt broken because
i didn’t know how to behave and everyone else did
i wept openly at my desk in the corner
when i found out there was no project due.

add is drowning on air.
it is dreading every conversation
with a supervisor or any person
whom i may have let down by forgetting something
but i’m not sure because, well, i’m not sure.

my brain tells me
be scared, joel, you probably forgot something important.

it also does not tell me how to do things.
add is not knowing how to finish tasks or listen closely or be able to sit still
and not even knowing how to want to do those things.

add is being ashamed i cannot do them.
add is using a brick to absorb water
while everyone else gets to use a sponge.

or wearing an invisible 200 pound backpack
that even i don’t know i’m wearing
and nobody else has one on and i say to myself
‘why can’t i keep up?’
and everyone else says
‘why aren’t you keeping up?’

add is living scared and angry
inside myself and looking to most people
like a goofball with limitless energy when really
i am so tired.

add is why i can’t sleep at night.
my brain doesn’t know how to process
darkness = it’s time to sleep.

so the world sleeps and i am even more alone with these rampant thoughts marching down the mountainside, and i didn’t even hang the bell to ring in order to signal the guard, because i didn’t manage my time well and i locked myself out of the house again.

add isn’t an excuse or laziness.
it is an absolute fear of failure
it is a list of wounds and weaknesses
that cannot even begin to be patched and healed
until one is diagnosed.

it doesn’t go away once it’s named.
it doesn’t go away with medicine.
fear is etched in stone after so many years.
so even if the habits have hope of changing
the feelings of add
whispers snaking into ears
at any possible moment
do not rest.

my fear is a canyon.
fear of failure fear of losing what few things i know how to value
fear of being wrong
fear of being right about being a failure.

i wasn’t ignoring you
add means one has trouble processing
either sound or sight
we don’t do it on purpose
our brains do not work correctly.

i was not ignoring the kitchen timer
i could not hear it while doing something else
even though it went off in the next room
i’m so sorry i ruined dinner.

that is add.

and it never, not once, feels funny.

wingspan of a fox

today was a hard day, darling.

your daddy did many things

and isn’t entirely sure if he did


of those things as well as he could

or should because

well how on earth do we measure such things


sometimes your daddy feels as if

all he can do is walk into walls while

a door stands open how on earth did he miss it


today, goodness, today was one of those days

lots of up close and personal with drywall

and maybe you noticed because on your way

out of a door you turned to daddy who was on the floor

gathering our legos and you

waltzed in zipped pink cowgirl boots

plunged through scattered remnants of a plastic tower

and flung tiny arms as wide as could be

and i decided to measure this day

in the wingspan of a fox

and her grip around my neck.

today was a great day, darling.

i love you,


once was and still is

i was thinking just now of ice and how
ice was water and ice is water
i was thinking how water
from water to ice or i guess also
to water vapor but i was really
focusing on ice because
it’s winter and it’s sleeting outside.


i was thinking of how ice
is but also was water
and vice versa
as in, let’s say

i had a glass of ice cubes and
they melted
while i was out of the room and
i entered the room again and
i might say
‘huh, i had a glass of ice
and now it’s water.’

i guess what i’m saying is
i think it’s kinda neat how
a thing can remain itself
while still becoming something else.

i was probably younger than i am now

once as a child

i was walking along the shore
of a north carolina beach
and i saw a kite
someone was flying
so very very high
and i never had the
patience for kites because
once you get them up there
they just kinda stay.
there is this initial

thrill of a rising action

and then lots of

just being there.

well, i might have missed the point
because the kite
rips into the wind
the wind
and the kite

i would like to be a kite.
i have always had the rising action.
i tear myself from the earth
with the best of them.
i would like to stay afloat

roaring above at great heights.

and i will need someone
to help hold my twine
so i do not fly away

to brush the sand off of me

if i do get clumsy and fall.