Shouting Into the Void With My Mother and Stephen Colbert

in Opinion by

My mother shouts into the void,
into the constellation of Facebook comments

underneath Stephen Colbert’s
gun control video. And the void shouts back

about how she values the rights
of gun owners over people’s lives. I take

strange comfort in the shouting.
We’ve long stopped having the conversations.

I stumbled across Colbert
by accident. Her name highlighted at the top

of the comments. I had made my account
private and unfollowed her after she wrote on my wall

that Trayvon Martin’s death was his own
fault. I couldn’t sleep that night. Seeing Trayvon’s

upturned sneakers in the grass. My students
in school uniform hoodies imprinted in my eyelids.

After she had already accused me
of exaggerating school conditions as I walked down

dark hallways and stared at plywood
all day with a heavy jacket on. After she and my aunt

passed around memes calling Obama
the food stamp president. She could only see

pictures of trips and birthday
messages. I hear people talking about putting aside

differences and just getting along.
About both sides and not being so divided, but I’m past that.

I’m moving further and further out
of orbit. Because basic human rights and dignity are not

up for grabs. I’ve said my piece
and built a family reputation. Always thinking the problem

was me. That I wasn’t trying
hard enough, that the right statistics and studies and personal

experiences would convince.
But, my Evangelical impulses aren’t there anymore.

People believe what they want
to believe and no amount of reasons—speech turned

to shouting—can change that.
No shouting turned to silence. No silence turned to

stumbling onto videos of your mother
and strangers shouting because you’re never around.

Afraid that you are like her
shouting through constellations at strangers, alone.


Abigail Carl-Klassen has been published in ZYZZYVA, Cimarron Review, Guernica, Aster(ix) and Post Road. She was nominated for a Pushcart Prize and Best New Poets 2015. She earned an MFA from the University of Texas El Paso’s Bilingual Creative Writing Program and taught at El Paso Community College and the University of Texas El Paso.

Photo by William Bayreuther.