A REFUGE FOR POETS WHO WRITE IN THE LYRIC TRADITION,
WITH RHYME AND METER, WITH OR WITHOUT MUSIC
Ph.D. IN GEOGRAPHY
Why take up geography?
Iíll tell you how itís supposed to be:
Our relation to this earth
Determines what the futureís worth.
Everything in time and space
Happens in some special place
Where unyielding natural forces,
Winds and glaciers, water courses,
Change the face of all the land,
But nowhere near as fast as man.
We do things because we can,
Without need, without a plan.
Some are glad to join the plunder;
Some seek knowledge and we wonder:
What better land use should there be?
And we take up geography.
Ah, but others take it, too,
Who will never share this view,
And youíll find that they get through
Much faster than you do.
The antelope lady, she explored
Where pronghorn antelopes migrate toward.
Her study areaís a bit confined,
And when they reach the Wyoming line,
The final leg of their migration
Is beyond the scope of her dissertation.
For this she earns a Ph.D.
In Arabia, so much waterís needed
That the water table gets depleted;
So sewage sludge from Arab towns
Is to be poured upon the ground.
Though chemical contamination
Accompanies this irrigation,
This program earns a Ph.D.
Our Fulbright scholar in Southeast Asia
Cannot even spell ďMalaysia.Ē
He calls himself an urban planner.
With no command of English grammar,
No knowledge of a foreign tongue,
The feds decide that heís the one
To find why tourists visit places.
He does not ask them to their faces;
He just vacations while heís there,
And leaves his English questionnaire
To be passed out by hotel clerks
To tourists, and to drunks and jerks,
While he reads only tourist guidebooks.
In far less time than you or I took,
They pronounce him Ph.D.
We have another Fulbright scholar
Who does know how to make a dollar.
He asked if tropical forests could
Provide enough charcoal and wood.
Could food be cooked and homes be heated?
Or will the forest be depleted?
To Costa Rica he was sent, man.
Guess where public money went, man.
Speaking in his fluent Spanish,
He hit the hills and promptly vanished
To set up a drug smuggling trade
From Costa Rica to L.A.
And while in hiding, on the lam,
He passed his Ph.D. exams.
Will he still get his Ph.D.
In the federal penitentiary?
And what of those who stuck it out?
Do their credentials give them clout?
Where are they now, in what positions?
One is now a street musician,
One sells magazine subscriptions,
One is writing science fiction,
One sells Avon door to door,
One pushes broom for Monkey Ward,
One prints T-shirts, one sells land,
Another works in Disneyland,
One is patching rubber rafts,
Two went bankrupt selling maps,
One is driving taxi cabs,
Two are working for their Dads.
Thatís what itís worth, this Ph.D.
Eugene, Oregon, 1986