During my undergraduate and graduate years, I took out close to $100,000 in student loans. By the end of my first year of my PhD.D. program I had exactly 10 poems published. I told a friend: “It’s as if I spent $10,000 on each pub."
And when you think about it I had. It felt like a sweet deal. Pretty cheap actually. Spending that money allowed me to become someone else –an artist – I never thought I would have the originality to become.
We called my father Hipless Lew the Meter Reader. He roamed through people’s backyards, reading the energy dials on their meters. It was the same exact thing I do as an English teacher. He interpreted the numbers; I interpret texts.
In junior high school, my father started calling me a Bohemian. I had no idea what he meant. But I liked the sound of the word. That’s what I told him.
“I like the sound of the word,” I said.
“That’s what I mean,” he said, “That’s why you’re a Bohemian.”
When your parents don’t have much money, the first expense that goes is the dentist. I remember when I was in grade school my mother couldn’t believe the price of a cleaning. One day she shrieked, “This is outrageous. We’re never doing this again.”
I bragged to all my friends that I was never going to the dentist again. I suddenly became popular; everyone wanted to lack what I lacked.
Now I suffer from what seems to be permanent gingivitis. That’s how I can tell if someone finds me truly attractive: they’ll kiss me.
These days every professor claims to have been poor growing up. Everyone takes it all in.
It’s the new way for white middle-class people to feel better about themselves.
It’s the same way years ago when I was receiving my undergraduate major in Women’s Studies instead of English. (I heard that it required less reading and writing.)
Everyone claimed to be a person of color. They all boasted that be 1/16th Native American. It sounded cool. So I said I was, too.
New poem in The Cortland Review
5 weeks ago