Ned Dougherty

Math Homework


I am the oldest daughter of three playing mother to myself

since the days when x and y were playing house. mom promised

years in a better home all with crackrotted lies passing from her

mouth like smoke. I have seen her with the variables of boyfriends

more than I have memories of my father. I recall her reducing

the lowest common denominator of the abuse and the abuser to me. I am


the bipolar teenager who knows homelessness

like rational expressions. the fullest years of my life made me a factor

of zero. I have demons and imaginary friends cancelling each other

out. I am a woman of my generation, in that

the people I call friends are common like me,

flowers with irrational roots.



Education of a Rural Girl


she knows the acreage value of weeds

and tumbles, the pollen of wildflowers

            shocked in the goat dander.


            she knows the haphazard imagination

of a cloudy sky

            and when it is going to rain or feign.


she is a trail hopper carrying deer piss and a bow. she changes

            tires, fence posts, horseshoes.


a witness of grandmother stewing

            stories on the stove

            her fruit                     the seeds                   the core

messy on the table of her young heart.


            she is a wrangler, a stray mother,

some sense of shelter: she can build from sand and straw

making a home out of her earth.                                     she can sing clay,


religious about a land of ditches and stone.

she is an artist of wood and icon—         


            animal and saint. she is both


the land and the passion.


A Couple of Tests Debrief the Morning


“Student 0461 was really off base

on #17. It marked C with a heavy bubble

then erased to B, erased, marked A, then C

and the answer was D, none of the above. Those messy bubbles

would have made whatever answer

It landed on wrong anyway.”


“My Math section was online and every It took about ten minutes

for the entire set of twenty questions. An It can’t get any correct

if each answer only takes half a minute.”


“You should have seen 14335 try to explain

the periodic table in the short response portion.

It made a bullet list without mention of metals

or noble gasses.”


“Anyone else have an It skip every question

with blanks?”


“There was one It,

charted data points

on an F-U axis

plotting the answer with a connect-the-dots

middle finger. Do we offer points for creativity?”


“I wonder if the teachers of this It shared the questions.

Look! 14 out of 15 correct. We should monitor It

tomorrow. The test is supposed to be hard.

This It data isn’t reliable.”


“I really wonder what 7652 has in store for us tomorrow.

The lyrics of ‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy’ for the essay prompt?

It will never pass anything with that attitude.”


“I really love how confusing someone made the second question

on Reading 1. Each It had a different response

to infer the meaning of the word human from the excerpt.

Did any of these its have a competent teacher?”


“One It took two hours

for the Science section. Irony!

It missing a question on species classification?

Almost too much!”


        return to poetry

Ned Dougherty is an award winning high school teacher working for Taos Municipal Schools in northern New Mexico. His poetry has been published in various journals and magazines across the country and interwebs including Rain, Party and Disaster Society and The Malpais Review. He is also the head writer of Gorilla Romance, a live sitcom presented by Teatro Serpiente about life and love in Taos. Follow his ramblings on twitter with the handle @teachpoet and on his blog of poetry and essays about education,