With a broken-down oven, in a hotel kitchen, on an uninhabited island
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First Susan got engaged to an archeologist,
who took her to excavate dinosaur bones in Tibet.
At night in their double sleeping bag,
while he catalogued her body parts,
Suze discovered her inner Tibetan.
Then she realized that he was a dinosaur,
and she found herself a western river guide,
who taught her to work the long oars on the deep green Colorado,
while condors from California screamed overhead
in the “high aerie” of the sky,
as Whitman said, whose work she became something of an expert in
when she dated the literature professor from Wisconsin.
He was followed by the mathematician,
who taught her the secrets of division,
until she divided herself from him
and went after the strong but sensitive fireman,
who could not put out her fire. It seemed that
she was enrolled in the University of Men
and that she would remain a student forever,
leaving one stunned dude after another
floating in the current behind her.
Now Susan has started the University of Women,
to which only women are admitted,
all of her professors having done
extensive fieldwork in the University of Men,
whom they fondly refer to,
in the faculty room,
in the long summer afternoons,
as the boys.
As an anthropologist, I was dismayed to find two factual errors about my field within ten minutes of perusing the December issue. Tony Hoagland’s poem “The University of Men” refers to a woman “engaged to an archeologist, / who took her to excavate dinosaur bones in Tibet.” That would be a paleontologist; archeologists study the remains of human societies. Dinosaurs are outside of their wheelhouse by about 60 million years.
In his essay “My Iceland” Sparrow refers to Icelandic, with its 320,000 speakers, as “one of the world’s least-spoken languages.” In fact, more than half the world’s six to seven thousand languages have fewer than ten thousand speakers each.