Graduation Poems ~ Class of 2014

Brad Penner and Cassie Leone at Graduation
Cassie Leone and Brad Penner

2014 Graduation Poems by Brad Penner and Cassie Leone.




by Brad Penner


As for then, there and how

forget it for now,

this is for you.


Brad Penner and Sharon Coleman at Graduation
Brad Penner and Sharon Coleman

As for today, if some

fumbled regret that you

hold from before does stand firm

to the floor of this stage,

then this is for you.


This is for you

who are not worthy,

or so you thought,

only so worthy as

that which you bought

but if dust shaped to clay

is then made into rock

then tell me otherwise,

for this is you.


Be it from hills or the flats over bridges anew

emerge from the tunnel electric, third rail singing

ascend and your ears are still ringing

the tower peers down like a skeptic.


Where are we going, but is that it?

Have you not crossed oceans already?

Afloat or drowning you swim

and I’m swimming. I am you

I see you, I drink you, become you

it is me and it is you within me.


I sing of you as I sing of myself.


When I was a penniless gambler

biting my thumb on Highway 1

a panhandler, a two-bit whiskey-lit

hitchhiking traveler, I was as lost

as I wanted to be

forgetting, forgotten

I slept on the hill.


Berkeley 2008, eighteen stubborn and dirty,

nothing in my rucksack but a stolen copy

of Jack Kerouac and the notion that nothing

would hold me back because Mark Twain

once said, “Never let schooling interfere

with your education!” and he is right

but I was never wrong.


What I knew was not what I would become

but what I thought it to be. I was wrong

I can be anything that I want to be.

I am not forgotten. Remember

that in you, there is me and no longer

could I fear descent down to Center St.


For years I had sat on the river’s bank.

To dive was to die from within me,

so I swim from within. With you I am swimming,

we are swimming along and drowning afloat.

When I breathe of you, and you breathe with me

what I see is a horizon found in an island

an abundance of mass where the grasses

do grow.


Enrolling, the pamphlets and lines

never ending, secured I am breaking

away and you with me. Like liquid

flowing an infinite river of solitude growing

we meet at the dam – we burst forth! beyond

the creek beds and stone brooks

the droughts of the valleys do cease

to resist, for the rain it does pour

until soil sings sprouts that reflect

the light through the mist.


Sometimes we fail.

Sometimes I think it is nothing

for I am nothing but you,

and you within me making something

out of nothing.


I repeat myself intentionally.

I am but one being below the mountain:

forgetting to rest in the wake of a test

that prompts, “I, in all of my glory

am worthy beyond settlement of second best!”

and I fail.

Fail to notice my worth among the rest

Fail to relish the accomplishment addressed

Fail to commemorate myself in these robes

I stand before you and feel beneath


But then I remember.


Remember the flesh and pulp of paper

bound by your wrist when I pass

you from class to class, gleaming

through turns of the staircase.

Remember the cold fronts of winter

made warm  by a smile that parts

the glass door not for but with me.

Remember the date of withdrawal

slow approaching you told

me I could and I did.

Remember that I am not alone

within these walls.


I remember that without you, I am nothing.


But tomorrow, where to from here?


I have no one to answer to but myself

and you. Where do you gaze in the dark of the night?

Where will we wake in the thin light of dawn?

Not where college is taking us,

but where through the mist

we continue this song

as the sirens of oceans

never ending unbound

from within ourselves

all along.


Where I will go and you with me

comes from river banks bound for the sea.


This is for you, for you are the difference

a difference within you and within me.
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Graduation Poem

by Cassandra Leone



this is not that once upon a time

happy ending, but our stories meet here

for ever after we made it this far

this story is mine, but here

becomes yours


our journeys are different

and sometimes the same

we’ve carved out our places

like rivers through plains

i can’t tell you a story

never heard of before

but I can tell you something

it is here I took form


let’s skip the sad stuff

humiliation and blame

forgive my little sister

whom i lost along the way


i started as a puppet

body carved from wood

limb of a fallen family tree

flung to the world



i’ve been a dishwasher

a captive

a cook

an art store cashier

a poet

a crook


i’ve been a lover

a painter

a punk

an apprentice

a barista

a hippy

a drunk


i spent so many years

doing circles in my head

faceless friendships

same revolving room


living               dead


i was searching when I got here

had been every inch of the east bay

in a place so familiar

finally finding my way



schooling was always a shadow

these buildings all looked the same

no mistake, after all the rebelling and struggling

i’d be right back from where i had came


anger had become my incentive

loss my purpose and strength

fear not so relentless

memories kept at arms length


I was no longer a feeble puppet

transformed in to flesh seeking humility

like a fairy had granted my wishes

i marched courageous to Center St.


initially i found fault

with administrative shortcomings

i almost turned back many times

found power in knowing

there’s harder things really

than navigating



these victories feel real

not like scoring or making rent

these victories i cant steal


so yeah there’s lots of paperwork

and lines and pointless words

but that’s not so bad when you think on it

since you decide what this is worth


i used to let just anyone pull my puppet strings

i used to let who i am be defined by outside things

it’s not just education that liberates my soul

it’s hanging on to what i need and letting the rest go


and there is no path to travel by

there is no path at all

if you want to know what happens next

just trust your heart


that’s all


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