My Reason for College, 2003

In the early hours of the morning
I reluctantly exchange the warm comfort
of my bed for the frigid air of winter.
I trudge to class through a kaleidoscope of gray
shivering despite the warmth of my coat.
The wind cuts through the cloth like a knife
chilling me to the bone and yet still I go.
I slide on the ice on the way to class and
soon I will slide again to my next one.

I study because two weeks ago
I watched my drunken brother lectured by a cop—
drunk because it was New Year’s Eve,
drunk despite his underaged status.
Army boy, just out of boot camp
and headed, ultimately, for the brig
and for overseas to fight in a vendetta
for an incompetent President, unlikely to
ever survive the military to go on with life.

I study because last week
my best friend gave birth to a baby girl
with no husband and living with her parents
no job and no hope of getting one
dreams of being a doctor forever postponed
for the harsh reality of single parenthood
without relief from bills and responsibilities
and with no hope of a high-paying job
without a slip of paper bought with time and money.

I study because every weekend
my mother works overtime at her job
for a lawyer who hassles her constantly,
never making enough money to satisfy anyone
because the family eats it so fast.
A woman stuck in a dead-end career
because there is no other way to pay the bills—
working without time to do anything else
yet somehow never getting ahead.

I study because just a few days ago
a friend told me goodbye because he wanted to die.
A child with his entire life ahead of him,
wanting to die because the system is against him.
He travels down a dark path alone and forgotten
and few people care, too caught up in propaganda
spewed for the purpose of pacifying those who
have intelligence enough to see that the government
is destroying any future that this country might have.

I study because every second of every day
a child cries for lack of something she needs—
a little girl who will never have the opportunity to
study because she won’t live long enough,
or if she does she won’t care by that point.
Betrayed by those who are supposed to protect her,
living in poverty because of rich bureaucrats who
keep her there, afraid of her potential
all the while claiming to be helping her.

I study because someday
I will have no more opportunity to study
because it will no longer be allowed in
an effort to keep the masses ignorant so that
those in power will never fall out of it
and those relying on them will forever be
trapped in a complex unsolvable maze
toys to be played with for the politicians who
never see the human faces on the bills they pass.

Emily Jo Scalzo received a BA in Creative Writing from Purdue and an MFA in Creative Writing with a concentration in fiction from Fresno State. She currently resides in Muncie, Indiana, and is an assistant professor at Ball State University.

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