Kent Johnson

The Corpse Lay Outside

The corpse lay outside the faculty lounge for 4 days, 
        And it stank.
To this day the source of the odor remains unknown.
        The reluctant janitor stepped over the body
And removed the South Wall after receiving a work order
         From the department head.
The remains of 40 nuns were found there
         But they were murdered by Jesuits in the fifties,
The sixteen fifties and no longer stank.
         Next, the dean ordered the janitor to rip
Up the pipes in the faculty washroom
         To see if rats were expiring there
From the cafeteria food or if the
         Austen scholar turned down for tenure
Had not deposited a parting shot.
         The janitor yanked out the torso of the missing
Johnsonian from a length of twelve inch sewage pipe,
         But he had convinced everyone that his shit didn’t stink.
Finally, the janitor was dispatched to the stately
         Home of the former department chair.
“He knows where all the bodies are buried.”
         The former department chair, Poe & Hawthorne,
Said most of the murders occurred outside the door
          To the faculty lounge but the bodies were dragged
To the foreign languages lab where French was passed through them
          Like sonar. He said, “Listen son. Can I call you Johnboy?”
In a voice like Walter Brennan. “Wanst, Hayseuss Calhoun,
          Hemingway/Fitzgerald, raised a corpse
Above his head on a cool afternoon
           And body slammed an anonymous Associate Professor,
Aiken & Spender, at the foot of the east 
           Facing window of the faculty lounge,
And broke off a toe for each tenured faculty to suck
           And it came to be that this is how we ciphered payroll.”
Then he reminded the janitor that there was a 
Statute of limitations on capital offenses that occurred
          On university grounds
And said if he ever returned, he’d see “he never worked
          In this town again.”
The janitor fearing for his cabaret card and
Leery of being the focus of any narrative,
          Quit and ran off with his plunger and pick (Strummm).
The faculty tried closing the door to the lounge
          But no one would brush aside
The corpse’s head that slowed convenient access and egress.
          “Oh! Where could that stench be coming from,”
Cried the Duchamp/Blavatsky Dune Professor of  
           Very Public Inanities.
“If the source is not found, I’ll be forced
           To sue the university and
Sign as a free agent and raise up some forlorn
           Junior college in the Highlands.
Who’s the prankster? Let him come forward now!”
           When no one speaks stink owns silence.
And material witnesses are immaterial
            When we don’t have a body.
To this day the source of the stink remains unknown.