A short list of my college learning:
you can drink bad beer when it’s free,
you can’t cram for finals on caffeine alone,
you can watch Star Trek episodes for the nth time,
you can make spaghetti sauce out of ketchup,
Naval ROTC cadets make great radio engineers,
even the news director gets free LPs,
mescaline is not advised for exam pep,
0.98 GPA requires negotiation to remain,
English can be an accidental major.
A short list of my college missed learning:
fail calculus if you never go to class
formal organic chemistry, not self-applied,
not reading any Chaucer before writing the final paper
grad schools look at GPA, not just GRE,
sleeping through morning classes not a good strategy,
Medieval history is boring,
Symbolic logic is anything but.
Conclusion: Got the diploma so
parents money well invested.classes
I have it on good authority,
supposedly, that the internet
will not he the death of me.
I have my sincere doubts, and
regardless, it has turned my world
on its head more than a bit.
In high school and college
I knew that a thick envelope
was an acceptance, a thin one
a letter telling me this or that
Ivy League school had a large
number of qualified candidates.
And as a poet, a thin letter was
acceptance, thick a return
of my work to trash or recycle.
Now both worlds are driven by
computer generated emails, and
I know the computer rejecting
my work in a kindly, if grammatically
inaccurate email never understood
the subtlety of my imagery at all.
Aunt Tzipporah hated her name,
detested it really, came closer to the truth.
“What the hell were my parents thinking?”
she said, “like being Jewish in West Virginia
isn’t going to be hard enough.
On a good day I got away with being Zippy,
but you try spending your Junior year in high school
hearing “Hey Zipper” or having some jerk
come up to you, cigarette dangling
from his lip and saying, “hey, Zippo,
got a light?” and you can guess
why getting out of state to college,
any college, was something I wanted so badly.”
I told my aunt I fully understood,
and she smiled, “I guess you do.
It couldn’t be a party going through
life with the name Shadrach Shamnansky.
For three days I was
a short order cook
a change from my table duties
when the regular guy decided
that a night of drinking didn’t end
when the bar closed
and broke back in
through the rotting back door
that was always next
on the list of things to be fixed.
The owner, my boss, said he’d wait
three days for the cook
to dry out in his cell,
but my cooking made him reconsider.
Yet the customer still came, paid
Were patient, and after
the three days past,
and the old cook couldn’t make
even his nominal bail
the boss hired a new cook
and I went back to dishes
and filling coffee, and looking lovingly
at my dishwasher, my friend
for a too long too long summer
until I went back to college.
There was a great deal
I wanted to say, after all
when you end the broadcast career
that spanned forty-three years
you want to be entitled
to a farewell address.
She said, “you’ve been on the air
here for two years, and
reading the news to the blind
once a week for half an hour
hardly constitutes a career.
And as for the three years
you did on the college station,
forty years before this,
I’m surprised even you
can remember anything you said.”
Somewhere in the herbal fog
of memory I knew she was right.