T’WAS THE NIGHT ‘FORE THE CONFERENCE (A VISIT FROM SAINT AQUINAS)
With apologies to Clement Clarke Moore
’Twas the night ’fore the conference and all through the inn
All the PIs were up with their laptops and pens,
Making graphs and new slides for their talks the next day,
In hopes that they’d have something brilliant to say.
At the social, the party was raising good cheer;
All us grads were up drinking cheap wine and bad beer,
Fondly dreaming of prizes that were to be won,
With talks practiced and ready and PowerPoints done,
When down from the lobby arose such a clatter,
I put down my drink to see what was the matter.
I lurched to the stairs, grasped the banister tight,
And didn’t fall once till I reached the last flight.
The lobby was garish with fluorescent glare
That lit up the tacky decor everywhere.
Then what to my glazed-over eye should appear,
But a group of spent students and bushed volunteers
With a young man whose face was so haggard and sapped,
I knew in a moment it must be the chap
Who’d said he would take charge and plan this event,
Little knowing how much time would have to be spent.
“Damn abstracts, damn socials, and all reservations,
Damn posters, damn outings, and late presentations.”
The last thing I heard as he passed was, I think,
“Just dash it all, dash it, and get me a drink.”
As the parricide’s soul from the Furies doth fly,
When it’s chased ’cross the land by those horrors on high,
So the thought of his tenure review hounded him,
As he pushed carts of AV equipment in bins.
Then in a twinkling he went out of sight
And all I could hear was the sound of his flight.
The squeak of his cart wheels led me to a room
Full of podiums, chairs, and a deep sense of doom.
His eyes, they were cast down, his visage was weary,
His cheeks both were sunken, his countenance dreary,
His mouth, it was drawn up as tight as a bow,
His hair streaked with white just like dirt flecked with snow.
A butt of a cig was clenched tight in his teeth,
The smoke of which circled his head like a wreath.
His wan face was pierced with two dark shadowed eyes.
His voice filled the room with soft curses and sighs.
He was wasted and thin, a young pitiful Prof,
And I laughed when I saw him, not meaning to scoff.
But a glare from his eye as he raised up his head
And I knew I could shut-up or have much to dread.
He set up projectors, computers, and screens,
Adjusted the focus till all could be seen,
Tested the mics, and shut everything down,
Then, wheeling his cart, he went out with a frown.
He went down the hall with more tasks yet to do,
And I thought it high time to get back to my brew.
But he growled at me ’ere he passed out of sight:
“Happy conference to all, not that I’ll sleep this night.”
This poem is dedicated to all those who have hosted academic conferences. God bless you every one.