The Transfer Student

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Contributor: Ken Wolman

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The campus bookstore does a brisk trade
in Tim La Haye novels that promise eternity:
a lake of burning horror for the unsaved,
but bliss to those with paid-up tithes and mortgages,
recession-proof jobs, and concealed carry permits.
So I teach, or try, whoever they send me,
and feel a bit like the Civil War battlefield surgeon
who cannot be choosy or (in spite of all) judgmental.

For these children are sweet, naive of soul though not of body:
jocks, cheerleaders, body-pierced and tattooed artists,
profane and beautiful as a Manet picnic,
all bemused by what to make of me
who is not one of them, yet still surprises:
too old to be attractive but able to speak
a disarming shared earthiness and knowledge
of a world beyond what my age is supposed to be.

Sadness clouds the cafeteria we all share,
the dark, Satanic mill where true learning happens.
I overhear that some of the girls are easy marks
who fight the thought of being pegged
since high school as The Low-Priced Spread
by clinging to the forgiving touch of Jesus the Christ
and his emissary on earth,
the boyfriend who pulls out in time.
This explains the boyfriend, spent and hung-over,
who falls asleep in class, oblivious to the insult,
going from one conquest to the next
until, like Bristol Palin's boyfriend,
he thinks he's hit pay dirt because
her daddy's rich, her mamma's good-looking,
and he can get a gig driving a Ditch Witch.

But “his” girl in the first row,
who crossed her legs to get (and got)
my attention, transfers to Rutgers at term’s end,
sends me a curious Facebook note,
then disappears from campus, a Sphinx who proves
that character is born despite the curdled seed
of the dozing boy who will remain so.

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Previously a resident of New Jersey, I am now living in the Berkshires in Massachusetts. I am a former winner of the New Jersey State Council on the Arts Fellowship in Poetry. I have been widely published both on paper and electronically.


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