POETS IN FEDERAL GOVERNMENT ISSUE
I stare at a stack that stares
back. I will—yes—somehow reduce
this word mound. Pounds of pages,
bound, stamped with a federal number
cover the bed and dresser, block
any view of the city. Peer review.
Piles of proposals, another week
locked into another low-budget hotel.
A stipend so small we call it
"a tip." One learns to plead
for a corner room, good windows
to fight blindness and boredom,
extra pillows to brace an aching
back. One learns to read sitting,
lying, standing, and "bathrooming,"
to take the tokens—notepad, leaking,
black ballpoint—when it's over. Begin,
I tell myself, the glare of Fl00234's
hundred pages staring at me. Read,
concentrate, score. Millions
"on the street." Hundreds competing.
Read, take notes, turn pages,
assurance after assurance—drug-
free environment, e.e.o. statement,
no conflict of interest. Goals,
objectives, workplans, evaluation,
staff, budget. Read, turn, score.
Dawn, dusk. Dusk, dawn. Days blur.
The brain numbs. Just one more—read
and review, write and score until,
suddenly, the mountain has moved
downstairs where reviewers' reviews
are reviewed, stamped, boxed
for trucking back to federal buildings.
Letters will be sent. Scores only,
reviewers names whited out.
At check-out, I sign my own forms—
no conflicts, no arrests, no drugs—
and walk out into cold air. I've been
on both sides. Letters will be sent.
Most will disappoint, but in a very few
places, a very few people will open
a very few thick envelopes offering
the chance to change the world in tiny ways.
Davi Walders was an Education Policy Fellow with the Select Education Subcommittee of the House of Representatives from 1980-1981. For many years, she has been very involved with education issues and has reviewed proposals for the Department of Ed., HHS, and other agencies since that time. Her poetry has appeared in more than 200 publications. She is the author of Women Against Tyranny: Poems of Resistance During the Holocaust (Clemson University Digital Press, 2011).
in Volume 13, Number 3, Summer 2012.
To read more by this author:
Walders: Whitman Issue
Davi Walders: Langston Hughes Tribute