Mitch is shoveling Kix into his mouth,
slopping milk all over the break room table.
Three other janitors huddle on the couch,
one from Croatia, one from Nepal, the third
from the suburbs of less faraway Gresham.
The computer is blaring one Bread song after another:
Professor Mitch is teaching a course in
pop music from the seventies
The Nepalese woman has just learned
that her entire family was killed in the earthquake
that recently shook the Himalayas.
When she describes what happened, she gestures
with her hand to show a house falling off
the edge of a cliff, sliding down
the side of a mountain.
The woman from Croatia occasionally
pats her on the shoulder. Mitch belches, pours
another bowl of cereal. Bread sings Sweet Surrender.
Lost Without Your Love. Everything I Own.
Weeks later, they're still pulling bodies
from beneath the stone and mud
in Kathmandu. I'm not sure if anyone
is learning anything, or what this lesson
is even supposed to be. Between songs I hear
the metronome tick of the spoon
as it scrapes the bottom of the empty bowl,
hear the roar of the great machines outside
the window, spewing asphalt and spreading tar
and causing the walls to vibrate as they rumble past.