“Learning and Labor in the Key of De-”

I find it odd that those who teach
With heart are mistreated
With banal de-sensitivity; I find it “queer”
That dedicated workers are de-unionized before being
Fired completely

(They deserve better)

But who am I to say anything? I don’t
Yet have my degree
In letting people down,
I don’t have a resume
Backed entirely in banknotes

(I am but a fledgling following).

I just have these thrifted jeans and crying
My waterproof mascara off in a classroom
Full of English majors—who just want to read
Margaret Cavendish in peace,
Undiluted by institutionalism

(We are little hippies)

I just have this small voice
In a copper-coated collective that’s being ignored
By a few claiming to be one of us
But who actually just want to treat
My education like a doomed case study—

(In depravity)

I am just participating
In protests for the sheer amusement
Of alumni — a technicolor snapshot
Of what they used to do when they were
Young and had something to be angry about

(Dancing for promises of the past)

I am just experiencing my first year
Of college as a senior with one foot
Already out the door, and the other wedged
Beneath a paint-chipped window hoping
It won’t close before others get a chance
To see the blue Ohio sky the way I did
Once, if only for a few
Bitter-cold seconds of fall

Kate Margaret Luke is a fourth-year student with majors in Creative Writing, Cinema Studies, and English. Her poetry and other creative work have been published in The Plum Creek Review, Wilder Voice, and Illustrations. When not writing, Kate can be found chairing the Experimental College, performing with VIBE Dance Company, or volunteering with Writers in Residence at the Lorain County Juvenile Detention Center. Kate wrote “Learning and Labor in the Key of De-” in 2022, around the time of the faculty protests and the revision of the bylaws earlier this school year. She strives to capture the melancholy, anger, and fledgling hope that she and many others were experiencing. The poem also anticipates nostalgia for a place equal parts special and fractured.