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Exquisite Corpse - A Journal of Letters and Life
The Tenured Guy
by Jim Daniels
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The Tenured Guy Learns to Cook

You were one of two tenured
among fifteen hired over ten years.
The old gay drunk who favored
young drama students but was too old
to grasp them in his tiny spider-like arms
patted your ass at parties. Harmless
enough, but he still had a vote. Once
while you were pissing at a urinal
he grabbed your neck and praised it
as a wrestler's neck. Harmless enough,
since someone walked in and he moved
away. He had a vote. Dinner invitations
you could not ignore, but always asked
to bring a date, a date bribed with cocaine.
She talked up such a storm, you snuck out
in the clouds and rain. You asked for his recipe
for whatever it was he made. He had a vote.
He complained when you grew a beard,
covered your pretty face. You shaved.
He had a vote and he gave it
to you. Years later, his drinking spills
into hallways, a coffee cup full of brandy,
his breath withering students in nearly empty
classrooms. He teeters
into incoherent monologues, his glasses
sliding off onto the floor with a clatter.
At the meeting to decide his fate,
you hold the index card with his mad scribble
350 for an hour
and firmly state
we have to get rid of him
He bitterly tosses his silver retirement cup
into a bag after the department has mustered
every good thing to say, every warm body
with a desire for free cake. A cut
on his forehead from a fall. You lick
the sweet frosting off your fingers
and step up to pray over the corpse.
You put your hand on his shoulder,
and he twitches.

The Tenured Guy Calculates Salaries

You've got a formula
that figures in ass-kissing
and grade inflation. The pal
factor, the longevity factor,
the padded vitae factor,
the committee-wonk factor,
the self-promoting factor,
the gossip factor, the meeting-
attendance factor, the disagreeing-
with-the-Head factor, the parking lot
factor and the cocktail factor,
the lame-publication factor, the rest room-
stink factor, the chewing-too-loud factor,
the jeans factor, the letter-to-the-editor factor,
the faction factor, the miniskirt factor,
the sportscar factor, the too-chummy-with-student
factor, the not-chummy-enough factor, the dean-
and-provost-tennis-playing factor, the president's
son factor, the rich-alumni factor, the simple
royal pain-in-the-ass factor. Your raise: 2%.
You wander the hallways, poking into offices,
counting on your fingers. Adjusting
for the cost of living.

The Tenured Guy With His Fly Down

You write and erase simultaneously,
Blackboard dust flying in the hiss.
September heat wave, the classroom pressing
in on itself with young, aggressive sweat.
They are dazed with boredom even
when you look down and notice,
even when you turn away.

The Tenured Guy Rocks On

I don't give a damn
about my bad reputation

sings Joan Jett in tight jump-
suit black leather
she flicks
    flicks sweat
into the crowd

you are too far away
to feel it land
but it is a gesture
you appreciate
concerned as you are
with your own reputation

some colleagues would laugh at you
for going to see her-
not what they associate
with an Associate.

maybe jazz maybe blues
but not Joan Jett
and the Black Hearts.

whatever she has
cuts through the endless meetings
where no one says
what they think,

a bald guy in silk jacket
Rock `n Roll Forever

dancing up front
a little paunch showing-
that's you.

when she sings
the old Sly song
"Everyday People"
You start to cry
for no reason

The Tenured Guy: Standards For Artistic Excellence

You've been putting off your standards statement
for weeks.

     Do penguins really smell that bad in Antarctica
     or is it just the zoo stench?

How's that statement coming?
Your Head asks
every time he sees you.

You've got tenure--you could propose anything.
You got through when they had no standards
statement. You put an acorn on your thumb:
Hey Pierre, you with the snappy beret, what
kinda standards you got?

The Emeritus with fifty years in
sat next to you at the last meeting
doodling. His spirals had real

     They used to keep the gorilla in a cage
     with a tire on a chain for a swing-Bobo-
     he'd spit, and you'd run screaming.

How did we ever vote him through,

you imagine them thinking.

     Hey Bobo, you shout to the gorilla
     who's too far away, now living in
     his natural habitat. Animals don't have
     names any more.

And that's okay
, you think.
Standards change over time

The Tenured Guy On Sabbatical

In the country outside Paris
you begin your research
on texture and light in the blah
blah blah. You try to expand
your fictive breath into a novel,
you explore the nasal passages
of French poets. Whatever.

Your latest lover--whoever,
it will come to nothing--paints
large black canvases in the studio
above you. She's twenty years younger.
You gave her the better light.


The picturesque stones never get warm.
You spend mornings building fires
with wet wood. After a month,
you've got good technique and style--
your fires have style. You'll be sure
to include that in your final report.
Wet wood--an apt metaphor
for something.

How will we get those canvases home?

you ask. You suspect she's along
for the ride. She'll drop you the minute
you're back on U.S. soil. She tromps
above you, mocking your silent keyboard.
Things are brewing
, you tell her.
Good wine, and it's cheap.


A colleague Fed Exes to ask your help--
the department is hiring a new theorist:
write a letter supporting her
or else they'll hire somebody like that ass....

Your colleague helped you a few years back
with that Thing-with-the-Student. Hurry,
she writes. Oh, sweet inspiration!
The words flow, effusive and generous:
Impressive credentials...
The ideal colleague...
Important doesn't begin....

Feverishly, you work late into the night.
No dinner for me
, you tell the painter,
I'm working!

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