I’m grateful not to be losing it
and I don’t only mean my miserable
tenuous state-funded job.
Job would have left already;
I only hang on for the convenient
access to the Zoology Department’s cache
of indigenous venomous snakes
displayed in eighteen chest-level terrariums
built into the hall of the science building,
rattlesnakes rakishly draped over shrunken
Arizona landscapes or coiled, wary,
their energy clearly exceeding the glass.
Last night I watched the new hire
feeder-weigher being schooled by his superior
in the hallway after all classes were out,
their arsenal a ten-gallon bucket,
bathroom scale, notepad, and an angular
metal hook fixed to a pole.
Removing a panel in the wall
above the Sonoran Desert Sidewinder’s
rectangular lair, a herpetology professor
showed the adjunct how to hook
the snake, lift it out of its glass cage,
step backward across the hallway
toward the far wall (carefully holding
the pole dangling three feet of snake)
spill the victim into the bucket
on top of the scale, note the weight,
then repeat that process in reverse.
Just seventeen more to go.
The professor stressed the trick is to
not do the natural thing—
you don’t want to bring the snake
to the bucket by drawing in the hook-end
of the pole hand over hand, or soon you’ll
stand eye to eye with the University’s
rare albino rattler, with nary a sliver
of healthcare benefits, much less tenure.
If you suspect this true-life narrative
to be extended metaphor, you may
have a future here at ASU,
so long as you have steady hands.
—from Rattle #53, Fall 2016
Tribute to Adjuncts
Kathleen Winter: “Since 2008 I’ve taught at four universities and at Napa Valley College, where I currently teach many folks from low- and middle-income households. A large number of my students also work (and often parent) full-time. As a lawyer, most of my clients were wealthy. Making a living as an adjunct in expensive Northern California has serious downsides, but I appreciate being able to work for people who aren’t rich and who are excited and grateful to be writing and learning.” (website)