For our poetry reading tonight I decided to write a poem about one Summer night I had when I was 16. It’s not about Adjuncting per se, but it’s about how we lead ourselves into abusive work environments, which is due to either where we’ve been, or how we don’t value ourselves.
I ask that even, if after all the exhortations I have made about doing something for Campus Equity Week, that you still have done nothing, that you at least value yourself.
You are not just the work you do, nor should it ever define you.
Going with the Carnies
Dog day turned dog night,the summer sultry air was suffocating yet not enough to cut the tension of getting a paying gig after a summer of mowing lawns for free. Jeff and I waited in the Southgate Lot for Jason, a guy Jeff said would pay us to help break the carnival down. At 9:15 the midway went dark and out came Jason, 5'2' blue black and hard, smiling with eyes that cut through any pretense of care. "You two look ready to work, that's good because there's no time to mess around. Along with you I got Mike and Earl who just showed up and if you want pay you'll have to work and move your ass cause I'm gonna ride you hard." Of Mike I only remember stringy hair like a person who wasn't there but a shadow to Earl, matted hair, unshaven, dressed in a stained shirt, pocket holding a half-crushed pack of Camels-- my age and from the other side. "Let's start with the kiddie rides-- you two pull the plating, and--we're already behind, so GO!" Pulling at the steel plates, with soft hands and fingernails off the platform of a race car ride, I recalled a time at five and "How come you fuckers aren't done yet? We need to be out by two! Hump your ass, I don't have time to fuck with you!" And so it went from ride to ride, fingers pinched three times collapsing awnings, hands cut on the tilt-a-whirl, head smacked on the octopus--no time for band-aids. Jason gave it to us in equal parts-- ringmaster, his voice cracked with the anger of my father, only without the cuffings of ears--it's perhaps why I, and maybe Jeff too endured. We leaped and jerked, strained and sweat-- yet no one dared to speak. Four hours later, we were done, drenched, black and sore. Jason harrumphed, sighed, and from his pocket pulled a thick wad of dollar bills, counting off eight bills for us four each like a seasoned cook peeling an onion. "Sorry I rode you hard, but then you should know how it is. Say... you guys, you're not so bad, I could use a team like you." We walked away, but as we did I looked back at Earl, now sitting in the carny van. Our eyes met just as it rolled into the black and gone. I still don't know what I saw.