“Sestina for Adjuncts” by Rebecca Snow

Rebecca Snow


Caring is all about shit.
—The Lady in the Van

All those articles on the nationwide plight of adjunct
faculty fail to mention sewage backing up in the bathtub,
a slumlord using the roto-rooter man to manage another teacher’s fate.
Replacing the pipeline costs over 10 grand. We should just put all our
used toilet paper in plastic bags, lay traps for the mice, keep
the leaky gas stove unplugged, wear earplugs against the neighbors

in the living room, not physical bodies but voices of neighbors
arguing for the perpetual loss of peace, conversations adjunct-
adjacent, rising in noxious waves from the apartment below, keeping
fingernail-on-the-chalkboard time with grading papers, the bathtub
devoid of candles and Epsom salts because we associate our
state of mind with slaves and victims of domestic violence, fated

to bless the salaries of university presidents and higher admin Fates
in offices with views of all those roofs devoted to smart screens, neighborly
online tutorials that teach the students to use a comma splice as if our
semicolon has lost its head. Students aren’t oblivious. They see adjuncts
without offices showing signs of no real home, no bathtub.
Demoralization is backing up in classrooms across America, keeping

up the tired work. Enough clothes and books should fit in our car-home; keep
putting the students first. Remember to teach them critical thinking. Fate
holds us by the string, urges us to be a kite, but doesn’t let us go anywhere. Bathtubs
are useless; so was the noisy fridge. We can still gather like good neighbors,
shower at the Y, dress in vintage professor vests. All adjuncts
could march away from campuses across America, all at once. Our

signs would say: “Equal pay for equal work” or show a photo of our
dog the neighbors poisoned with crack. Teach Frederick Douglass, keep
the words of Red Jacket ringing in the students’ ears. Then all adjuncts
rise, declare higher ed. subsumed by oligarchy, fated
to perpetrate U.S. domestic violence, PTSD from bed bugs. Neighboring
countries scoff at us for throwing the water out with the bathtubs

until the sea to shining sea rises with voters gunning for a wall, shooting up tubs
of higher thought, piles of Emerson lectures, MLK speeches, tomes of words our
country has whittled into memes. What will Facebook say—what will the neighbors
think when students throng behind all of us marching and chanting, keeping
our backs turned to the dumbing down, resuming control of our fate,
ever-snipping the strings that bind our forefathers’ Declaration to hypocrisy. Adjuncts:

We’re not just tired of hearing our neighbors while taking a bath. We must keep
slavery out of America, corporate decisions out of education. Overturn our fate.
Refuse to be adjuncts. Our used-up souls will find buoyancy in our stride as we walk away.

from Rattle #53, Fall 2016
Tribute to Adjuncts


Rebecca Snow: “This is my last semester as an adjunct at a community college in a state where we are paid some of the lowest wages for adjuncts in the nation. My income will no longer cover my rent, and I am technically homeless as of April 17th, one month before my son graduates high school. I have been applying for tenure-track positions like crazy along with thousands of others, but no interview so far. My health prevents me from working a desk job and many other jobs, and teaching is what I love. I will be housesitting in three different places through July, and after that, my future is in limbo with zero savings as a single woman at the age of 50. If I ever do land a tenure-track position, I will treat adjuncts as equals and advocate for overturning the corporatization of education in this country whenever I can.” (web)

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