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Ambitious Dream Number Twenty-Three

Well, the thirteen-member search committee

in last night’s bourbon and coke

dialed me up again at two AM

to flatter the cut of my CV’s jib

and offer me an interview on campus.

The chairwoman’s voice,

all honeysuckle and real sweet tea,

told me they would very much like

the chance to observe me

teaching the good, the true, and the beautiful,

and improving, meanwhile, the grammar

of this spring’s eighteen-year-olds

in their unnatural habit,

high on independence and video games

and rookie sex, and aspiring generally

to the smart life’s wealth and leisure.

This time I’d be headed to a lovely college hamlet

on the moon of eastern nowhere, not so far

from where an unemployed starlet

and her handyman raised me

in the 80s to put my pants on

both legs simultaneously, broad jumping

boldly into those waist-deep puddles

of khaki. I had roots there—

above ground maybe,

like those of an oak laid low by tornados,

but they were still fine roots

and I made certain the right folks saw them.

Y’all are too kind, I said.

Dr. Sweet Tea smiled through the phone

and explained to me how impressed

they’d all been with the vulnerability

I’d shown submitting a headshot

with my bulbous nose and, in lieu

of the traditional cover letter, a ten-page inventory

of the many great shames

I keep in my heart’s refrigerator.

She particularly responded to the juicier sirloins

I’ve been marinating since high school:

that athletic awards ceremony, for instance,

at which, from the back of the room, I thought

I heard Coach call my name

for “most offensive player of year.”

I had climbed the stage

and strolled partway towards him

when I recognized my error

and the rightful winner already there

to shake the dignitaries’ hands—

Coach, the principal, the bald AD,

all of them turning to stare—

No, I tried to interrupt her,

I sent you no such thing. But she kept on,

how they couldn’t wait to meet

my nose, how they knew in their spleens

that I was going places

even if I was only going there in poems.

Tuesday evening after a sit-down with the dean,

a brief parade in my honor

would double as a tour of campus,

all of it followed by a department potluck

at the Medievalist’s apartment,

and if I could bring a side dish, that’d be great.


GEORGE DAVID CLARK’s Reveille (Arkansas, 2015) won the Miller Williams Prize and his recent poems can be found in AGNI, The Georgia Review, Gettysburg Review, The Southern Review, and elsewhere. The editor of 32 Poems, he teaches creative writing at Washington and Jefferson College and lives in western Pennsylvania with his wife and their four young children.


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