Poetry: Selections from John Yohe

Archive of Uncomfortable Emotions About Teaching at a Community College

The reading sixty essays over the weekend feeling.
The professors at universities only have to teach two or three classes feeling.
The you also want me to be an advisor feeling.
The no matter how many great students and classes I have there will always be some crisis or crises which will result in me laying in my bed awake at 3am feeling.
The our students are only expected to be good worker drones feeling.
The our students only seem to care about getting jobs and I guess I can’t really blame them feeling.
The my best students are settling for being dental hygienists when they could be dentists feeling.
The one disruptive student can ruin a whole class feeling.
The my students don’t want to be here either feeling.
The most of our athletes and students in general leave after one year feeling.
The maybe teaching is just another ego trip anyway feeling.
The our campus infrastructure is slowly collapsing and there isn’t enough revenue to cover it feeling.
The how is this school staying operational feeling.
The even the new president is keeping her house in Dallas where her husband still lives feeling.
The attending another bullshit faculty meeting feeling.
The attending another bullshit faculty meeting on Webex feeling.
The my Friday is being sucked away by another hours-long WebexCurriculum Committee meeting feeling.
The volunteering to help edit proposed curriculum course descriptions and being told by the Chair during a meeting in front of everyone that my English Instructor edits are not the type of language they want feeling.
The wanting to punch the Chair in the face for rolling his eyes at me feeling.
The having to justify my teaching by assigned learning outcomes mandated by the state feeling.
The having to justify ourselves to the state government and not the other way around feeling.
The no matter how much I’m proactive about discussing plagiarism there is always at least one student who still does it because they think I’m stupid feeling.
The thinking my students think I’m stupid feeling.
The my dean is an incompetent liar who threatened my job if I didn’t drive an hour and a half one way to the other campus to teach one class twice a week feeling.
The my associate dean is a bully who thinks technology makes you a better teacher feeling.
The admin is making us do all the work feeling.
The most of our admin has never taught a class feeling.
The we’re living in the middle of nowhere you’d think the admin would be nice to the faculty feeling.
The our medical insurance is extortion feeling.
The our retirement is a joke and I’ll probably be dead by then feeling.
The I’m starting to look like all the other unhealthy-looking faculty.
The there is no one on the faculty with whom I really want to be friends feeling.
The I can’t believe schools still run on the lecture-based mode of teaching feeling.
The I can’t use the word praxis in a sentence feeling.
The being forced to teach an online class feeling.
The my online students are not getting anything close to what my in-class students are getting and they seem ok with that feeling.
The our athletes come to this podunk town in nowhere Colorado thinking they’re going to play professionally feeling.
The our coaches seem to be lying to them feeling.
The our baseball team leaves for two weeks during the semester and we’re all supposed to be ok with that feeling.
The our vice-presidents give preferential treatment to the male athletes feeling.
The filing an incident report on the softball coach using racist and sexist language against my students and nothing happening feeling.
The having a softball student make a sexual harassment claim against me because in an essay which she wrote two months previously she seemed to be saying that her uncle had said something inappropriate to her so I wrote in the margin ‘Does he mean you?’ feeling.
The HR is not my friend feeling.
The fuck it I’m just gonna have my comp students write poetry feeling.
The fuck it I’m not going to assign any essay that doesn’t sound interesting to read feeling.
The go sit on my favorite rock on the hill overlooking campus feeling.
The I could go back to being a fire lookout poor but free feeling.
The if I quit now I’m too old to get hired again feeling.
The not sure I’d want to teach again anyways because there will always be bullshit and nobody will remember any of this in five years feeling.

Potato Lake

when we werent
fighting fires
off forest or
out of state
at our home district
back in Arizona
we would
do project work
for one of the other sections
of the national forest
like building or maintaining trails
for Recreation
mark trees for Silviculture
or build fence for Range—
a whole department 
devoted to the management of cows
so ranchers are allowed
(the might say entitled)
to graze them on allotments
on national forests
on one of those days
we drove our crew buggies
out near the Mogollon Rim
to a place called Potato Lake
which back in Michigan
we would have called a pond
since it was only about thirty
feet across
but was a rare natural
body of still water
in the whole state
the range guy
had us build fence 
about fifty feet off the ‘shore’
all the way around
high kind
meant to keep out elk
w/a small gate for humans
what the fence
was for
was not explained
I didnt ask
firefighters werent supposed
to question
or think
tho I think it might have been
to keep cows out
from ruining the whole area
but the range guy
seemed satisfied—
tho we/d fenced off the one stable 
water source
for maybe centuries
from all the large native animals
who would have used it
would be easy
to go back with
some wire cutters
tear the thing down
I suppose
tho then the cows would come
and we cant 
get rid
of the cows


every day on the bus
to school
he suffered the laughter
of junior high children
very pale
big head
done-at-home haircut
that accentuated the bigness/yellow teeth
always-open mouth
tho the wierdest indignity
was that his father
was a soy bean farmer
which I always thought meant
his father supplied
the main ingredient
to the so-called hamburgers
we were served at lunch
he was in the last stop
of the morning
(I was the first
forty-five minutes earlier)
off of Vrooman Road
where all the cool 
kids seemed to live
he carried a big thin
rectangular briefcase
which not until years later
did I realize was a portfolio—
Edward was an artist—
but no one cared about that then
(they dont care about it now)
every morning it seemed
he would get on last
walk up + down the aisle
looking for a place
stumbling as the bus moved
(the driver wouldnt even wait)
finally he/d usually sit
b/c no one wanted to sit
w/me either
I didnt mind
tho we never talked
that would have marked me
as it was
I was grateful for his presence—
I would have been next

John Yohe has worked as a wildland firefighter, wilderness ranger and fire lookout. Best of the Net nominee x2. Notable Essay List for Best American Essays 2021, 2022 and 2023.