International Sponge

(for Emily Forand and the W119 Faculty and Staff)

I envy you.
Stamped with the names of all those exciting places.
Turned on your side, you look
like a squishy old-time Pullman porter’s trunk.
Amsterdam
London
Paris
Munich
How did you end up here
scrubbing dishes in the faculty lounge?
No enticing aroma of French pastries
and café au lait.
Just the smell of microwaved Lean Cuisines
and stale coffee grounds.
The conversations must be pretty dreary.
No Gertrude Stein lamenting a génération perdue.
Mainly just complaints about student apathy

and talk of anticipated retirements.
Two Lost Generations of another era.
You silently soak it all in.

Pardon me for being rude. . . .
Did you pick up germs in all those places,
infections and insidious plagues?
Can sponges be infested with fleas that carry Black Death?
You’ll  have to forgive me for being provincial.
They don’t let us out much around here.
Just as likely you
picked up a bug when you
cleaned up the moldy burrito
left in the refrigerator last semester.

Maybe you enjoy the monotony
surrounded by week-old newspapers
and institutional feng shui furniture
All that world travel can be exhausting
You know our secrets
Who doesn’t wipe up food spatter in the microwave
Who steals sporks
That most of us are turkey- on-white-bread boring
International sponge. . . .
Or international spy?