Poems of the Week


The Tenured Guy’s Trajectory

The dean requests a narrative
of your goals for the next five years—
a new process called post-tenure
review. Oxy-moronic. New Formula—

gets out stubborn stains.  You want
to straighten the dusty framed
certificates on your office wall.
Not now—as a goal.

You accidentally made your way
into the recruiting brochure
checking out coeds on a warm spring day.
Is that a publication?

Trajectory: you draw a diagram
of the Texas Book Depository,
Oswald and Ruby together,
Obscenely positioned.

Was that entirely necessary?
Your colleagues disparage you
As the holder of the endowed
Conspiracy Theorist Chair.

Can you list that as a field?
Cynicism wafts around you, stings
like a cloud of twenty-year-old
cigarette smoke.  You could smoke

in your office back then.
And in the classroom. Outside, students
huddle, puffing in the cold. You wish
for an excuse to stand with them

that wouldn’t kill you. The next
five years? Ten to retirement.
Your booster rockets fell harmlessly
into the sea years ago. No little form

is going to do the trick.
They’re already bidding for the right
to press eject on your office chair—
talk about trajectory.

The Tenured Guy Handles the Evidence

In a class full of smooth faces
hers is cracked into lines
like your own.

She’s a sing-songy rhymer:
“Drunk Drivers Go To Jail.”
God would get them

for killing innocents. Don’t preach,
you told her. My son, she said,
was killed by a drunk driver.

That’s truth. It’s what I feel.
You gave her the standard advice:
Show don’t Tell. Image over

Abstraction. She brings in
pictures of her son, and a pile
of his clothes—dumps them

on your desk with a drop slip.

The Tenured Guy Calculates Salaries

You’ve got a formula
that figures in ass-kicking
and grade inflation. The pal
factor, the longevity factor,
the padded vitae factor,
the committee-wonk factor,
the self-promoting factor,
the gossip factor, the meeting-
attendance factor, the disagreeing-
with-the-head factor, the parking lot
factor and the cocktail factor,
the lame-publication factor, the rest room-
stink factor, the chewing-too-loud factor,
the jeans factor, the letter-to-the-editor factor,
the faction factor, the miniskirt factor,
the sports car factor, the too-chummy-with-student
factor, the not-chummy-enough factor, the dean-
and-provost-tennis-playing factor, the president’s
son factor, the rich-alumni factor, the simple
royal pain-in-the-ass factor. Your raise: 2%.
You wander the hallways, poking into offices,
counting on your fingers. Adjusting
for the cost of living.

from Having a Little Talk with Capital P Poetry, Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2010

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