I love the stained carpets,
the broken equipment,
the valiant IT guys who keep trying
to fix things, showing up like
Jedi with giant coffee cups.
I love the single remaining, hard-used
computer lab, and the inadequate
parking that brings out students’
predatory instincts. I love that there
have been fistfights over spaces,
and that everyone drives a junker.
I love the cafeteria line, where
we who were never fed at home can get
turkey and dressing every Thursday,
and tacos, reliably, on Tuesdays.
I love the part-time, adjunct
faculty working like the crew of
this nation’s Titanic to unlock
the gates in steerage for those
coming up behind them. I love
the teenagers with pierced lips,
and the old heavyweights, like me,
struggling for breath on the stairs,
hauling five hundred dollars worth
of knowledge in a backpack on wheels.
I love the thrill and terror in the eyes
of these people who have seen it all,
and still not given up. And yes,
I love even the swastika tattoo I glimpsed
on someone’s back in the financial aid line,
because it is behind him now, because
he is here for something more than skin deep,
something more painful than ink:
he is here to learn something
he does not already know.
Barbara Sullivan, August 2009
Writing teacher from Lane Community College in Oregon